In the 1979 French production VOYAGE EN DOUCE, released to US home video in 1995, two long-time friends travel together to the south of France to look for a summer house; during their trip, the two women remember events from their past, reveal long-held secrets, catch up with each other,
and enjoy the present.
Helen (Dominique Sanda), a writer, invites her friend Lucie (Geraldine Chaplin) to accompany her on a search for a summer house after she returns home one evening and finds Lucie sulking outside her apartment door. The two women spend the evening talking about why Lucie is unhappy with her lover
Francois and why she wants to leave him. Helen and Lucie then travel through countryside and small villages and visit a few houses before Helen finds a place that inspires her. The women stay in a small hotel and make three separate visits to the house at different times on consecutive days.
Helen and Lucie explore the empty house, stroll the grounds and neighboring countryside, and make trips to a town market and outdoor restaurant. They flirt with each other in bed at night, as well as with a young male waiter who delivers breakfast, and with a stranger at a restaurant. One night,
after she remembers her first kiss and only sexual encounter with a woman, Lucie tries to initiate a kiss with Helen, but Helen laughs and turns away. The next day, however, Helen photographs Lucie in stages of undress on the house grounds and unbuttons Lucie's blouse.
The women return to Helen's home and family after a few days, and Lucie spends another evening before she returns to her apartment with Francois. The film concludes with Helen preparing to sneak off. She removes her panties from under her dress, stuffs extra clothes into a bag, puts on an
overcoat, and leaves her apartment, but then stops and sits outside the door. It isn't clear whether she intends to go to Lucie or out into the world.
In VOYAGE EN DOUCE, the women's conversations and encounters revolve around the nature of desire and the life of the mind, the erotic and intellectual life they know and create. But the women are also quite different from each other, and this difference enriches the discussions and makes the film
interesting and unpredictable. Helen is intelligent, reflective, condescending, and malicious. Lucie, on the other hand, is a more stereotypical feminine character, portrayed as whimsical, flirtatious, and more honest, though weaker. Lucie is also more daring and speaks of real events--though
often with great embarrassment--while Helen is given more to fantasizing and fictionalizing her personal narratives.
While the mise-en-scene in general is reminiscent of the films of Truffaut, the film does contain several unique scenes. Most notable, screenwriter and director Michel Deville represents two events through partial flashbacks: Helen's encounter with a stranger is represented both by a sequence of
still shots, like a collage of filmic images, and by her narration (which is often at odds with the images presented). On the other hand, a rape that Lucie survived is represented by the sounds of the rape juxtaposed to the images of the countryside surrounding the summer home. In the first case,
the images dominate, in the second the sounds.
Another example of Deville's talent is shown in an amusing, charming, and symbolic scene which occurs at the hotel. In bed one morning Lucie imagines a new lover, and when a young man arrives with breakfast, she maneuvers him first into holding her and then kissing her. Helen directs the kiss as
she imagines and perhaps desires it. Helen, ultimately unwilling or unable to betray her husband, symbolically kisses Lucie through this nameless, young male. It is to the director's credit that Helen's ambiguity is further complicated by the film's ending, where she is poised to embark on a new
beginning which is uncertain to the audience, and perhaps to Helen herself. (Nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1979
- Rating: NR
- Review: In the 1979 French production VOYAGE EN DOUCE, released to US home video in 1995, two long-time friends travel together to the south of France to look for a summer house; during their trip, the two women remember events from their past, reveal long-held se… (more)