7 June 2004 | gcrokus
At nearly any film (except art-house showings) some viewers will arrive late, several by as many as ten minutes. `Bon Voyage' is one of those films with such an extraordinary opening scene (and the best in the movie) that one is reminded that no person begins a story or novel six or eight pages in; consider Hemingway's `After The Storm', demonstrating arguably the greatest opening sentence ever written. We are treated, as in the opening of `The English Patient', with that sense-straining struggle to exactly understand what we are seeing and that almost organic release as we know we have been masterfully played. This wonderful introduction plays as centerpiece the astonishingly beautiful Isabelle Adjani cast in the best lighting and angles imaginable. She portrays a film actress (Viviane Denvers) who along with her collection of friends, lovers and various other acquaintances must (or so they think) leave Paris on the eve of the Nazi takeover in 1940. That murder, love, conspiracy and high-tech military secrets are part and parcel of this mélange is all part of the fun.
And fun it is. With as many characters as are employed here, `Bon Voyage' requires careful attention to the comings and goings of all. It is probably fairly accurate that those in an invaded nation probably do not really know where to go or exactly what to do in the face of rumor, speculation, hearsay, and least important of all, facts. But we also see that human desire, duty and propinquity are undeniable factors in all matters.
The main threads of the story involve Gerard Depardieu (natty as Beaufort, the cabinet minister) in a desperate political situation, Peter Coyote (as Alex Winckler the journalist/writer), Professor Kopolski and his singular mission (played by Jean-Marc Stehle) and his assistant Camille (as rendered by beguiling Virginie Ledoyen). There are a number of other performers that appear throughout which add to the confusion but in actuality are adroitly woven into the tapestry that is `Bon Voyage' and serve to act as stirrers that mix the drink.
Truly a testament to excellent writing, the complexities of Ms. Adjani's character are the common link between all that is there for us to see. She is the one you cannot take your eyes off (I cannot recall as wonderful a wardrobe on a beautiful woman since Ashley Judd in "Eye of the Beholder"), and she is the one whose own ostensible self-interest drives the hamster wheel of energy that we observe.
Almost never did the audience laugh out loud, yet the humor is unrelenting and perhaps because we strain to hear the next line or get our bearings we have no time to pause. Just monitoring the cast is a job in itself and Isabelle Adjani's ephemeral appearances are so special that there is no doubt the viewers were quite literally mesmerized.