Bonjour Tristesse ★★½

No question the work of a great filmmaker whose imagination runs too quickly for the limits of such a lightweight story, but this weird, vaguely scummy Jean Seberg vehicle that has her reading every line like "New York Herald Tribune" amounts to little more than The Parent Trap rendered as a tragedy. Seberg's dad is David Niven (in the film's only good performance) who's running around with a much younger woman until fun-hating Deborah Kerr returns to his life and insists that his daughter commit herself exclusively to homework. Gorgeously shot, color and black & white both, and riddled with perversity: the sheer body horror of Niven on his back doing the bicycle, of Mylène Demongeot describing her sunburned, cracking skin in excruciating detail, of Kerr and Seberg haunted by each other's eroticism, and of the incestuous bond at the core of the story. But these intriguing qualities aren't enough to overwhelm the script's basic emptiness. Sure, you could judge Preminger as intending the entire thing as a meta-narrative that's really about itself, but beyond gawking at the locations and Saul Bass' lovely title sequence, that seems more of an intellectual than an emotional exercise... and as the latter, despite noble ambitions, this seems to me a failure.

Nathan liked this review