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Bon Voyage

Bon Voyage (2003) feels like an old-fashioned move, and not just because it's set on the brink of World War II. Jean-Paul Rappeneau's comedy/drama/thriller has the kind of clear-cut characters, melodramatic twists, and rapid-fire dialogue of Hollywood's Golden Era — albeit with a modern polish. The movie starts with a bang, literally, as doe-eyed starlet Viviane (Isabelle Adjani) enlists the help of old friend/former flame Frédéric (Grégori Derangère) to dispose of the body of a man she swears she killed in self-defense. Poor Frédéric gets caught in mid-dump and winds up in jail, only to escape a few months later during the chaos that erupts as the Nazis close in on Paris. On his way out of town, he hooks up with fellow fugitive Raoul (Yvan Attal) and beautiful, brainy Camille (Virginie Ledoyen), an assistant to a scientist who's trying to escape to England with a supply of heavy water — which, if it falls into the wrong hands, could be used with uranium to make some rather explosive weapons. As if all that weren't enough, once everyone reconnects in Bordeaux, Frédéric discovers that Viviane has cozied up to a powerful government official (Gérard Depardieu) who may or may not be willing to sign an armistice that would hand France over to the Germans. Obviously, Bon Voyage is a very plot-centered film, but Rappeneau gives his actors plenty to work with. Adjani is excellent as Viviane: She makes the vain, selfish actress somewhat sympathetic at first, but as the movie goes on, we see how much Viviane relies on others' (including mysterious American reporter Alex Winckler, played by Peter Coytote) perception of her as weak and fragile to get her way. Derangère has a boyish, Noah Wyle-esque appeal as Frédéric; he's a good man who (like many of his peers) just can't say no to the beautiful Viviane. And Attal makes Raoul — a cheerfully unrepentant sinner with a soft heart — rakishly charming. With strong performances bolstering a fast-paced, intelligent plot, Bon Voyage (which won three of France's Oscar-like César Awards and was nominated for eight more) is a thoroughly satisfying piece of cinema: fun and entertaining without being condescending or trite. Columbia TriStar brings the film to DVD in a strong 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer (Thierry Arbogast's rich cinematography holds up well on the small screen) with French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. English, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles are included, as are a commentary by Rappeneau (in French with optional English subtitles) and a collection of trailers. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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