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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

Cecile: Raymond never got a diploma.
Anne: Yes, but he worked hard and made quite a bit of money.
Cecile: Well, if it's all gone I'm sure there will be a man to take care of me, and you don't need a diploma for that!

- Jean Seberg, Deborah Kerr

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: December 14, 2003

Stars: Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg
Other Stars: Mylène Demongeot, Geoffrey Horne, Juliette Greco
Director: Otto Preminger

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (implied sexuality, heavy cocktail consumption)
Run Time: 01h:33m:37s
Release Date: December 16, 2003
UPC: 043396085671
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C C+BB+ D+

DVD Review

Director Otto Preminger is one of the more intriguing figures in the history of American cinema. Born in Austria in 1906, he emigrated to the US in 1935, becoming a citizen eight years later. From 1936 to 1950 he worked for Fox, but with the slow dismantling of the studio system that started in the mid-1940s, he was able to go independent in 1951, forming his own production company. Freed from the constraints of the studio, he quickly developed a reputation not only as a tyrant who wanted to control every aspect of his films, but also as a producer/director who was unafraid to tackle such controversial subjects as race, drugs, and sex.

Bonjour Tristesse falls squarely in the last category. It's the story of spoiled 17-year-old Cecile (Jean Seberg), who's spending the summer on the French Riviera with her playboy father, Raymond (David Niven). Raymond has brought along his latest fling, Elsa (Mylène Demongeot), and things are going swimmingly until his old friend Anne (Deborah Kerr) arrives. Raymond soon realizes that he's in love with her, but her prudish outlook and behavior cramp Cecile's style, and Cecile has to take action if she's going to continue her affair with neighbor Philippe (Geoffrey Horne).

Preminger adds interest to the story, composed largely of flashbacks, by filming the present-day sequences in black and white, and the flashbacks in color, frequently alternating between the two. The grey of the present echoes Cecile's (and Raymond's) unhappiness, while their past joy is expressed in the beautiful colors of the Mediterranean settings. Otherwise, Preminger's visual style isn't particularly flashy (or even interesting)—it's set solidly in the tradition of the "zero degree style" developed in Hollywood in the 1930s, and very much a product of the studio system that Preminger was so eager to abandon.

But there's a lot to like about the film, from its depiction of sophisticated people making sophisticated conversation while they sip their sophisticated cocktails, to the opening titles, instantly recognizable as the work of famed title designer Saul Bass. The '50s fashions, especially the amazing hats, are always entertaining, there's modern art on the walls, and there's a fab rendition of the title song by legendary French singer Juliette Greco.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer is problematic. It's colorful, with the slightly surreal colors typical of many 1950s films, but the image is often grainy, sometimes distractingly so, and there are no true blacks. The black-and-white sequences, on the other hand, are exquisite, with deep blacks, lustrous whites, and a complete absence of grain. There are short sections where the image flickers slightly, and where vertical bands appear, but these are brief, and appear to be flaws in the source print, rather than the transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Portugueseyes

Audio Transfer Review: You wouldn't expect much in the way of stereophile sound from a film made in 1958, and you don't get it. But the sound is always clear and there is no tinniness, nor difficulty in understanding the dialog.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring From Here to Eternity, The Age of Innocence
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Printed insert with chapter listing
Extras Review: The original theatrical trailer for Bonjour Tristesse is in good shape, but nonanamorphic, as is the trailer for From Here to Eternity, which features the famous "kiss on the beach" scene. The inclusion of a full-frame trailer for Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence is curious at best.Aside from the wealth of subtitle options, and a dub track apparently designed to appeal to the large Region 1 Portuguese-speaking audience, that's about it. Oh, and there's a printed chapter listing.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Very much the product of its time, Bonjour Tristesse is an entertaining film about hedonism and sex, if rather timid as seen from the viewpoint of 45 years later. The transfer, while colorful, is grainy, and the extras are miminal.


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