In this provocative Academy Award winner from French director Serge Bourgignon, a psychologically damaged war veteran and a neglected child begin a startlingly intimate friendship—one that ultimately ignites the suspicion and anger of his friends and neighbors in suburban Paris. Bourguignon’s film makes thoughtful, humane drama out of potentially incendiary subject matter, and with the help of the sensitive cinematography of Henri Decaë and a delicate score by Maurice Jarre, 'Sundays and Cybèle' becomes a stirring contemplation of an alliance between two troubled souls.
It's very difficult to walk that fine line when you are dealing with an intense relationship between an adult and a child. With movies like 'Harold and Maude', 'Lolita', or even films as subtle as 'Lost in Translation', there is a sense of awkwardness to these relationships, given the age of the characters. But that being said, that doesn't make for a bad movie. In fact, it could be argued that those are some of the best of all time, and many people would agree. But in the back of your mind, you will always have that uneasy feeling watching an adult and young person have a relationship on screen.
French director Serge Bourguignon flawlessly walked this thin line with his masterpiece film 'Sundays and Cybele', formally titled 'Sundays in Ville d'Avray'. Serge does not have a long list of film credits. In fact, most of his work consists of short films, but with this feature length opus, he tells a story of two broken souls who are looking for an innocent friendship so they aren't lonely anymore. Of course society doesn't view it that way. But 'Sundays and Cybele' went on to win three Oscars including Best Foreign Film, Best Score, and Best Screenplay, and you'll realize why it is universally praised after watching the first ten minutes of the film.
In the opening sequences, we meet Pierre (Hardy Kruger), who is a fighter pilot during a war. When he is crash landing, he sees an innocent Vietnamese girl looking up who doesn't deserve all of this destruction and death. After the war, this image of this girl haunts him gravely as he now has severe emotional issues and a bit of amnesia. His nurse-girlfriend Madeleine (Nicole Courcel), lives with him now and their relationship is fairly low-key. One day, Pierre takes notice of a young girl named Cybele (Patricia Gozzi), who is dropped off at an orphanage by her father who has no desire to care for her.
Cybele is emotionally distraught of course, and Pierre takes notice of this and is reminded of the innocence of that Vietnamese girl from the war and he draws similarities between the two. Soon enough he pretends that he is her father and the two meet every Sunday and develop a relationship that resembles two innocent children playing together rather than that of an intimate one. But of course, there are some in-direct and direct sexual metaphors that Serge adds to this screenplay and film that don't go unnoticed. Later in the film, people find out about their relationship, and instead of asking about it, they think the worst is happening between an adult and a child.
But little do they know, that both people are so emotionally stunted by a previous trauma, that they are both in an innocent child-like relationship, where both are on the verge of discovering a new sexual awakening. Kruger plays Pierre perfectly with all of his struggles to try and keep up with his girlfriend Madeleine and her bourgeois ways, which he cannot understand do to his mental ability at the moment. And Gozzi is one exceptional actress at this age. She's capable of conveying every emotion on an adult level to a tee.
Bourguignon certainly impressed a lot of people with his first feature film 'Sundays and Cybele'. It's a shame he only made two other films in his career, because he had an uncanny and natural way of showing someone's struggles in love and life. This tragic film is beautiful on so many levels and will be one you will remember and talk about for days on end, just like how Pierre kept on picturing that Vietnamese girl.
'Sundays and Cybele' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. According to Criterion, this is a new digital transfer in 2k resolution a Spirit 4k film scanner from a new 35mm fine grain master, which was made from the original camera negative. Almost all the dirt, debris, warps, and jitter were manually removed as well. The image is the best it has ever looked. You can tell a lot of time and love went into restoring this 52 year old film.
The detail is quite sharp, allowing for great closeups that reveal great facial textures such as wrinkles, dirt, and debris. Other textures in props and costumes look stunning as well. Background images look solid as well, giving the image some depth. There is a nice layer of grain, keeping that digital washed out look away. The whites and grays looks amazing and well balanced throughout the film while the black levels are deep and inky. There were a few issues with the opening credits in regard to some debris and scratches, but after that, it's smooth sailing. This video presentation looks great.
This release comes with a lossless French LPCM 1.0 Mono audio mix with great English subtitles provided by Criterion, despite one spelling error. According to Criterion, this original mono soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm magnetic track. Pops, cracks, and hissing were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.
This mono track is simple and to the point. Dialogue is always clear and easy to follow along with the subtitles. The lossless portion delivers some good depth with ambient noises of the city as well. The score is beautiful and is perfectly balanced and it never drowns out any of the ambient sounds or dialogue, leaving this audio mix with great marks.
Interview With Serge Bourguignon (HD, 27 Mins.) - This interview was conducted in 2014 where director Serge Bourguignon discusses working on this film as well as talking about the directors who were popular at this time. He dives into the origins of the story, casting, and working with such coarse subject matter. Excellent interview.
Interview With Patricia Gozzi (HD, 12 Mins.) - This interview was conducted in 2014 where actress Patricia Gozzi discusses her first film role, which was this movie. She talks about acting for the first time on camera as well as her relationship with Hardy Kruger and director Serge. Great interview.
Interview With Hardy Kruger (HD, 24 Mins.) - This interview was conducted in 2014 where actor Hardy Kruger talks about making this film with Patricia and Serge. Since he was a veteran actor at this point, he was one of the reasons this film received funding. He talks about working with the young Patricia and his director.
'Le Sourire' (HD, 23 Mins.) - This is one of Bourguignon's short film documentaries that follows around a Buddhist monk. It one the Palme d'Or award for Best Short Film in 1960.
Introduction to 'Le Sourire' (HD, 7 Mins.) - Serge introduces the above short film and talks about his life before he stated making movies and what got him started filming.
Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Trailer for the film with a narrator voicing what the film is about.
'Sundays and Cybele' is a brilliant film with very suggestive subject matter. Director Serge Bourguignon captures each emotion and character flawlessly throughout the tragic tale of innocence and love. And actors Patricia Gozzi and Hardy Kruger are magnificent in these roles. The video and audio presentations are both top notch here with some excellent extras. Criterion has definitely knocked it out of the park. Highly Recommended!