This BBC television production is a lyrical and sympathetic portrait of the life of author-aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Best known as the writer of The Little Prince, "Saint-Ex" is portrayed as quite literally "high on life."
Antoine de St. Exupery (Bruno Ganz), nicknamed "Saint-Ex," is born to a wealthy French provincial family whose fortunes are in steep decline. Deeply affected by the death of his brother Francois (Aidan Cottrell Boyce), the young Antoine (Joe Cottrell Boyce) becomes fascinated with the transcendent
power of aircraft. He becomes a pilot for the French postal service--a working career frowned upon in aristocratic circles. But Saint-Ex soon makes his mark as a novelist.
He finally acquires an interest in things earthbound when he meets Consuelo (Miranda Richardson), a beautiful Spanish woman who can run both seductively hot and cruelly cold. Wooing and marrying her, he sets up house in Casablanca, near his North African mail route. But Consuelo never adjusts to
the danger and uncertainty of the aviator's life. She flees to Paris. After a brief dalliance with his longtime friend Genevieve (Janet McTeer), Saint-Ex follows his wife, yet can't promise to give up flying. The view from the air is too important to his artist's sensibility.
Against Consuelo's wishes, he attempts to break the Paris-Saigon air record. The flight ends with a near-fatal crash in the desert near Cairo, and Saint-Ex temporarily retires. He is lured back to the air by the rise of fascism, saying "You can't fight the fascists with a pen." Soon after
finishing the manuscript for his faux-children's book The Little Prince, he disappears during a reconnaissance mission over the North African desert.
SAINT EX's gauzy, frilly production design and elegiac pace is not for everyone. Though Frank Cottrell Boyce's script is talky and deliberate, it yields no more profound insights into the artist's character than the platitude that "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." That the view from the
air is different, even inspiring, is not exactly a startling revelation. The dour and doughy Bruno Ganz is a strange, not entirely successful casting choice.
On the other hand, with the help of Barrington Pheloung's music, SAINT EX does cast a hypnotic, otherworldly mood. The combination of Saint-Ex's child-like expansiveness and Consuelo's grasping allure also makes for interesting chemistry between Ganz and Richardson. (Richardson, as usual, hardly
ever strikes a false note.) Those who love The Little Prince, or were terribly charmed by THE ENGLISH PATIENT (1996), will probably like this film. (Sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: NR
- Review: This BBC television production is a lyrical and sympathetic portrait of the life of author-aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Best known as the writer of The Little Prince, "Saint-Ex" is portrayed as quite literally "high on life." Antoine de St. Exupery (… (more)