The ruthless plans of a pampered teenager go devastatingly awry in Otto Preminger’s cool and stylish classic.
One of the hits of the Treasures section of the 2012 London Film Festival, Otto Preminger’s cool and stylish classic (based on the notorious, best-selling novel by Françoise Sagan) is a film that’s ripe for rediscovery.
Jean Seberg plays Cécile, the spoiled and pampered adolescent daughter of Raymond (David Niven), a wealthy Parisian widower holidaying in a sumptuous villa on the Côte d’Azur in the 1950s. Their decadent, pleasure-seeking existence is threatened when Raymond impetuously decides to marry his mature and frighteningly starchy friend, Anne (Deborah Kerr), who disapproves of Cécile’s steamy summer affair with Philippe (Geoffrey Horne). To keep her happy-go-lucky world from being shattered, Cecile schemes to use Raymond’s mistress (played by the coquettish Mylène Demongeot) and her own boyfriend to drive Anne away. But the plan takes an unforeseen and devastating turn. Narrating in flashback from a glistening black-and-white Paris to a brilliant blue-hued Riviera, Preminger’s protégée, the luminous Jean Seberg (championed by François Truffaut as ‘the best actress in Europe’) gives the performance of her career as the ruthlessly scheming teenager, while Niven’s callous charm is disconcertingly perfect. Bonjour Tristesse, impeccably restored (by Sony Columbia’s Grover Crisp) in dazzling colour, velvety monochrome and ’Scope is a golden-age masterpiece and arguably Preminger’s greatest film.
Directed by Otto Preminger
With David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Jean Seberg, Juliette Greco
Running time 94 min