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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents

Bon Voyage (2003)

Viviane Denvert: Will there be a war?
Interior Minister Jean-Entienne Beaufort: Please! People ask me that 100 times a day. Not you...not tonight.- (Isabelle Adjani, Gérard Depardieu)

Stars: Grégori Derangère, Isabelle Adjani, Virginie Ledoyen
Other Stars: Gérard Depardieu, Yvan Attal, Peter Coyote, Jean-Marc Stehlé, Michel Vuillermoz, Nicolas Pignon
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence
Run Time: 01h:55m:06s
Release Date: 2004-08-17
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-BB- B-


DVD Review

Leave it to the French to tap into the golden age of Hollywood cinema! While most American comedic directors are indulging themselves in the gross-out humor and product placements that one will find in, oh, say, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, director Jean-Paul Rappeneau—best known for his staging of Cyrano de Bergerac and the 1995 epic, The Horseman on the Roof—has made a solid old-fashioned comedy that blends melodrama, action, wit, and physical humor with tremendous professional grace. That is to say, Bon Voyage is the kind of film that Ernst Lubitsch might make if he were alive today.

The story begins in Paris on the eve of Hitler's invasion. The setting of this film aids immeasurably in creating a cinematic feel, since there may never have been an era in history that has lent itself to as many great films as Europe in the 1930s and '40s. As German troops mobilize, Parisians are going about their daily routines. One such Parisian is Viviane Denvert (Isabelle Adjani), a famous movie star that drives men wild. These men include, but are not limited to: France's interior minister, Jean-Ètienne Beaufort (Gérard Depardieu, who looks remarkably similar to Jacques Chirac here), Vivian's childhood friend, Frédéric (Grégori Derangère), and a newspaper reporter, Alex Winckler (Peter Coyote). At Viviane's most recent movie premiere, a mysterious man follows her home. Later that same night, she calls Frédéric to help her dispose of the mystery man's body. Frédéric, who has loved Viviane his whole life, agrees to get rid of the body but gets into an accident when driving away. The man's body is found and Frédéric goes to jail for murder.

While Frédéric sits in a cell for Viviane's crime, the Germans invade, causing France's upper class to flee south. Frédéric and his jailhouse friend, Raoul (Yvan Attal), escape prison and head to Bordeaux. As the two men journey towards the province, they encounter Camille (Virginie Ledoyen), a young physics lab assistant to Professor Kopolski (Jean-Marc Stehlé), who appears to be a fictional Einstein figure. Once Frédéric and his new associates arrive in Bordeaux, everyone begins to scramble for passage out of the country and pursues their own agendas. Frédéric learns that Viviane has become the lover of Minister Beaufort and gets himself caught up in the drama of an actress' life. It is difficult to believe that these people would be more concerned with who is sleeping with whom at a time such as this, and it is even less believable that anybody could stand to be around Viviane for more than ten minutes. Despite her beauty, Isabelle Adjani's performance does little to make her character relatable to audiences.

Fortunately, however, the energy of the script and the rest of the cast make up for this. Without giving away any more specific plot details, the film jumps between soap opera vignettes and espionage with great liveliness that makes this an enjoyable, if not entirely believable outing. The sets and camerawork look like they stem from the hey-day of Hollywood's studio system and the ensemble acting, with Grégori Derangère anchoring the film, provide a string of laughs and aesthetic quality that will please the audience. The only weak spot in the film's production is the score. Gabriel Yared, who normally turns in stellar work, does not seem to be in stride here; his scoring of the suspense scenes comes across nicely, but his love themes feel awkward and distracting.

Jean-Paul Rappeneau's enjoyment of the material—he co-wrote the screenplay—is evident from the first frame to the last. Bon Voyage will probably never be viewed as a classic, but it is a nice contemporary film that pays homage to the classic comedies of the 1940s. The story is a complete fantasy that decides to focus on the smaller, personal shenanigans of its characters than the more epic, substantial themes of its time period. Considering the current state of the world, it's nice to have some escapist fun that reminds audiences that people's lives still go on even as larger forces conspire towards more sinister ends.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Bon Voyage looks good. There's no outstanding work here, but the colors come across cleanly and the contrast is solid. Print defects, grain, and mosquito noise are nonexistent, creating a pleasant viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Bon Voyage gets the Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment, which preserves the original French audio. Some sound directionality, such as during the prison escape scene, works well, but the mix is primarily not dynamic. Some of the crowd scenes sound less intense than one suspects Rappeneau intended them to be, especially during the events in Bordeaux. Overall, however, it is a nice listen.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Portuguese, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Zhou Yu's Train, The Triplets of Belleville, The Company, The Cuckoo
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The pacing of the subtitles is effortless to follow and the yellow font is easy to read, which helps greatly in paying attention to both the story and the visual images. There also are Portuguese and Spanish subtitles. The film's original theatrical trailer and four previews, Zhou Yu's Train, The Triplets of Belleville, The Company, and The Cuckoo are including. Each of them is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with The Triplets of Belleville and The Company also being offered in Dolby Digital 5.1.

There also is an audio commentary by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, with optional English subtitles. He spends most of his time remembering his childhood during the outbreak of World War II, but he also gives some good anecdotes about the making of the film. He shares some candid moments about disagreements with Depardieu and the films that inspired him. The features are not very diverse, but the commentary is a nice touch.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

The next time you're looking for a comedy to watch on a rainy day, give Bon Voyage a look. The movie is fun escapist entertainment and this DVD is a satisfying presentation. The transfer and sound mix are well done and the audio commentary by Rappeneau has many interesting anecdotes that are worth a listen.

Nate Meyers 2004-08-15