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Sundays and Cybele

Posted by martinteller on October 5, 2013

Pierre (Hardy Krüger) is a 30-year-old ex-fighter pilot, traumatized after killing a child in Vietnam.  He has been suffering amnesia for the past year, and is dating his former nurse, Madeleine (Nicole Courcel).  Pierre frequents the train station, hoping to see something to trigger his memories.  One night he meets a man arriving with a 12-year-old girl (Patricia Gozzi).  Feeling drawn to the girl, he follows them to the convent school, where the man is clearly abandoning his daughter, despite vowing to visit her on Sundays.  Pierre takes up the role himself, and the two spend their Sundays together, developing a deep bond.  But such a relationship gets tongues wagging, and when Madeleine discovers that he’s been having these secret rendezvous, even her suspicions are raised.

This is a lovely and charming film, one tinged with sorrow and doubt.  We can plainly see that Pierre’s intentions are purely non-sexual.  In a sense, he is almost a child himself, rediscovering the world with Françoise/Cybele as his companion.  And yet there is a romantic element to their interactions, and the ending leaves enough ambiguity to wonder if Pierre’s mindset is as healthy as it had seemed up to that point.

However, this doubt does not cast any dark shadows on the sweet scenes they share.  Krüger and Gozzi have a delightful chemistry between them, and there is barely a moment when they’re together that isn’t endearing.  Both portray levels of innocence and cynicism that put them on equal footing in their perceptions of the world.  Perceptions that are often shown to be distorted by fantasy… reflections in the ripples of a pond transport them to their “home”, Cybele views the surroundings through the prism of a quartz.  But are they seeing the world through distorted lenses, or is it the other way around?  The film could perhaps be seen as a litmus test for the viewer’s own sense of innocence and purity.

With lyrical scoring by Maurice Jarre, and clever cinematography by Henri Decaë, Serge Bourguignon’s movie fits squarely in the style of the nouvelle vague while achieving an emotional sweetness that seems rare for the movement.  Definitely worth seeing, and I would like to see it again.  Rating: Very Good (87)


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