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Otto Preminger: Anatomy of a Movie

Sunday, December 20, 2009
5:00 p.m. Bonjour Tristesse
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1958)

Restored ’Scope Print

This Jean Seberg is not the butch ascetic of Saint Joan, but a haughty teenybopper idling away her extravagant summer on the Riviera. Her closest companion is her daddy, an aging playboy flawlessly tippled by a decadent David Niven. Indulgent daughter and reckless role model languish in the posh pleasure of the moment. Then Anne (Deborah Kerr) arrives, a stately and worldly wise woman, unlike the nymphets typically trailed by Dad. Based on Françoise Sagan’s notorious novel, the film begins in the black-and-white dreariness of a wintry Paris, then effortlessly revisits the past in a profusion of widescreen Technicolor. When Daddy succumbs to the ripe charms of Anne and marriage is imminent, Seberg’s Cécile attempts to undermine their sobering relationship, to tragic ends. This restored CinemaScope print brings to the fore Preminger’s masterful use of color and composition, but it is a visual delight paradoxically tinted by sadness (the tristesse of the title), the woeful outcome of that long, hot, and ignominious summer.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Arthur Laurents, based on the novel by Françoise Sagan. Photographed by Georges Perinal. With Jean Seberg, David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Juliette Greco. (94 mins, B&W/Color, ’Scope, 35mm, From Sony Pictures)