Serge Bourguignon

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Dylan
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:28 pm

Serge Bourguignon

#1 Post by Dylan » Mon May 03, 2010 1:42 pm

From a brief bio paragraph:

After studying at the prestigious IDHEC from 1948-50, Serge Bourguignon worked as an assistant director. Soon after, Bourguignon began directing documentary shorts and traveling the world gathering material for upcoming films. In 1960, one of those films, Le Sourire, won him a prize at Cannes. Two years later, the filmmaker won an Academy Award for "Best Foreign Language Film" in 1962 for his feature film debut Sundays and Cybele.

I recently saw the new Italian DVD of Sundays and Cybele, which has been damn near out of circulation (save for an early nineties VHS) for decades, and consequently a film I had heard quite a lot about over the years (not in the least because, as noted above, it won the foreign film Oscar in 1962 and was also nominated for screenplay the same year). Unjustifiably obscure, I think it's one of the greatest films ever made.

But what became of him after that? He followed Cybele with The Reward, an American western starring Max Von Sydow and his then-wife Yvette Mimieux, which to my knowledge has no release of any kind but has shown on the Fox Movies Channel and on Encore. He followed that with his second French feature, Two Weeks in September, starring Brigitte Bardot and was recently released in a box set of Bardot films. Both had (or have) minor followings.

Before completely disappearing from the cinema, he handled the majority of the filming of Ray Bradbury's The Picasso Summer, a drama starring Albert Finney and again Yvette Mimieux. Sometime during the production, Bourguignon walked (I'm thinking in Post-Production) and the film was subsequently finished by the producer over the course of 1970. The Picasso Summer was never released theatrically and (apparently after a brief theatrical run in Europe) more or less disappeared into oblivion save for a showing on Bravo in the nineties (Michel Legrand's score was released on LP at the time coupled with his popular Oscar winning score for Summer of '42). Virtually unseen for forty years, The Picasso Summer was recently released through the Warner Archive in an apparently beautiful widescreen print. Although there's no mention of him on the Archive website, Serge Bourguignon is credited as director on the back case, but I'm not sure if the print on the DVD credits him. This film has cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond.

And that's it. No other credits, no other projects or writings I can locate, zero interviews. Bourguignon just disappeared from the public eye altogether. According to IMDB, he's still alive. My question to everybody here is - are there any post-sixties interviews with him in print somewhere? New interviews in French, perhaps? Has anybody heard anything else about him other than his very short stint as a director in the sixties? Sundays in Cybele has become one of my five or ten favorite films of all-time, and while I have every intention to see his other three films (two of which will be easy to locate as they were recently released), I wish to know more about him.

Meanwhile, I can't imagine Sundays and Cybele languishing without a R1 DVD release for too much longer. Does anybody know who owns the US rights? (the Italian DVD was distributed by Sony) A R1 that includes Bourguignon's early documentaries and new interviews with Bourguignon and the surviving cast would be a dream come true.

Thanks in advance to anybody who can help answer these questions, or who wishes to share their thoughts on the work of this filmmaker.

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antnield
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:59 pm
Location: Cheltenham, England

Re: Serge Bourguignon

#2 Post by antnield » Mon May 03, 2010 2:06 pm

Sony have recently issued this on R2 in the UK. It's available exclusively through MovieMail.

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Dylan
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:28 pm

Re: Serge Bourguignon

#3 Post by Dylan » Mon May 03, 2010 2:20 pm

antnield wrote:Sony have recently issued this on R2 in the UK. It's available exclusively through MovieMail.
The DVD I rented from Scarecrow Video has the same cover art as the DVD at MovieMail, except the title and descriptions are in Italian. Sony has the rights to distribute Sundays and Cybele in Europe, but I'm not sure if it's the same with the US. The Sony R2 DVD transfer, by the way, is absolutely gorgeous.

Tom Peeping
Joined: Thu Aug 31, 2006 1:32 pm
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Re: Serge Bourguignon

#4 Post by Tom Peeping » Wed May 05, 2010 4:24 pm

Les dimanches de Ville d'Avray (Sundays and Cybele) has just been re-released in two theaters in Paris after decades of obscurity except one showing in La Cinémathèque a couple of years ago and one on Canal+. The title of the film has been familiar to French cinephiles since its original release back in the early 60's but the film itself had nothing of the following it seems to be having in the US or Japan. Until now... The medias and the blogosphere have been raving about the movie and its rediscovery by the new generation and the few who saw it back then in the Sixties.

Serge Bourguignon is doing well and came a few times with Patricia Gozzi (the little girl in the film, now a 60 year old) to showings of his movie to tell about its making and memories of the 1962 Academy Awards. I haven't been to showings of the film (I discovered it with the very fine german DVD edition last year) so I can't tell about what was said by Bourguignon and Gozzi.

But yes, the film is one of the best of French cinema in the early 60's.

Perkins Cobb
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:49 pm

Re: Serge Bourguignon

#5 Post by Perkins Cobb » Thu May 06, 2010 4:56 pm

Bourguignon's The Picasso Summer is a recent Warner Archive release.

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Dylan
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:28 pm

Re: Serge Bourguignon

#6 Post by Dylan » Mon May 10, 2010 5:47 pm

I caught up with the Warner Archive release of The Picasso Summer last weekend. What's really interesting about it is that, being vaguely familiar with its production, it does feel like the product of several different hands. The film's copyright on this print is 1972, some three years after Bourguignon reportedly shot and turned in his cut of the film. The producer more or less finished the film after Bourguignon's departure, hiring somebody named Robert Rossin for re-shoots and overseeing the animation. In the final version, I would say that at least 1/3 of this film (if not more) is taken up by animation sequences and montages. I liked all of these scenes, but they didn't strike me as something Bourguignon would do. I have a feeling Bourguignon shot the film "straight," no montages, no animation, not so much lush romanticism and the film was probably longer and felt different, perhaps more dramatic. Although Vilmos Zsigmond receives top DP billing, two other DPs are listed under him in the credits. And while it could just be me, I was able to tell when Zsigmond's very distinct lens was filming these people, and that was during all of the scenes with the couple quarreling. Ray Bradbury worked on the screenplay (which was taken from one of his short stories) but used a fake name for the screenplay credit. The film opens up with a Warner Television logo, which makes me think it was ultimately sold to television but never screened. Bourguignon's name is nowhere to be found on this print, but oddly his name is on the back of the DVD case.

Despite all of the problems behind the scenes, I liked this film. Michel Legrand basically wrote a symphony for the animation sequences and scores the montages and the drama like there's no tomorrow (he wasn't the original choice for composer though, that was reportedly Randy Newman). It's a big, gorgeous score. The editing is also rather audacious - lots of montage, quick cutting, freeze frame, and split screen modeled on Picasso compositions. The animation is very cartoony and colorful (almost psychedelic) and sort of eerie when it needs to be & the contrast between it and the live action is sometimes striking. Albert Finney is, in a way, playing a gentler version of his Two for the Road character. Yvette Mimieux is one of the loveliest actresses who ever lived. And ultimately, it's simple escapism. A successful man has a week off from work in between projects and just wakes up one morning and decides to take a spontaneous trip to Europe to meet his favorite painter?

I'd still like to hear from Serge Bourguignon and anybody alive involved in this film the entire story of what happened to it. I can determine a fair amount just from watching it, but I'd love some solid details. I have to wonder if Bourguignon's experience here is what made him resign from cinema.

Les dimanches de Ville d'Avray (Sundays and Cybele) has just been re-released in two theaters in Paris after decades of obscurity except one showing in La Cinémathèque a couple of years ago and one on Canal+. The title of the film has been familiar to French cinephiles since its original release back in the early 60's but the film itself had nothing of the following it seems to be having in the US or Japan. Until now... The medias and the blogosphere have been raving about the movie and its rediscovery by the new generation and the few who saw it back then in the Sixties.

This is really great to hear. It's only a matter of time, I suspect, before a French SE and hopefully an American DVD (or theatrical re-release?) comes along.

Serge Bourguignon is doing well and came a few times with Patricia Gozzi (the little girl in the film, now a 60 year old) to showings of his movie to tell about its making and memories of the 1962 Academy Awards. I haven't been to showings of the film (I discovered it with the very fine german DVD edition last year) so I can't tell about what was said by Bourguignon and Gozzi.

Awesome that the 82 year-old Bourguignon has come out to discuss his masterpiece, and also that Gozzi (who really does give the greatest child performance I've ever seen in this, and she has some astounding competition) joins him for the occasion. I hope a new interview is conducted at some point, discussing this film and his career.
Last edited by Dylan on Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Dylan
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:28 pm

Re: Serge Bourguignon

#7 Post by Dylan » Fri May 14, 2010 5:00 pm

Two Weeks in September made me wish there were more Serge Bourguignon films. From the two films I've seen of his (I don't count The Picasso Summer, which belongs to the producer and the composer more than the four or six hands who handled the filming), he was astoundingly observant of human nuance and also had one of the most spectacular cinematic eyes of the sixties.

Although I know and love her by reputation, the only Bardot film I'd seen prior to this was Contempt (a top ten film for me), which is an intentionally cold, dramatic performance outside of the opening few minutes. That same charm only allowed for the opening minutes in Godard's film is on full display here (and then some). Bardot is not only gorgeous, she's quick, funny, supremely confident in movement and expression & above all a good dramatic actress with a sense of fun. I'm pretty late to her club, but I loved her as this retired fashion model testing her fidelity. Her and Laurent Terzieff have a natural chemistry that Bourguignon doesn't shy away from, allowing us a full display of their rapport's physical and verbal idiosyncrasies for the entire time they're together. Lots of great small moments & bigger, funnier moments between the two that some will undoubtedly recognize from their own relationships. Absolutely beautiful color cinematography with the images and scenery subtly informing the inner-workings of the surface proceedings. We get a small, quiet jazz score by Michel Magne. This isn't a film that's well-received, much to my surprise, but I found it excellent all around.

Image

The auteurist in me wants to see the only other Bourguignon film out there, The Reward, even though it doesn't have a single good review to its name. It is a very odd-sounding film to follow Sundays and Cybele with - he no doubt got many Hollywood offers after he won the 1962 Oscar for foreign film along with being nominated for screenplay the same year, but a western of all things seems like a strange direction for him after Cybele (kind of like having David Lynch make Dune after The Elephant Man).

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Terri
Joined: Sun Feb 16, 2014 7:09 pm
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Re: Serge Bourguignon

#8 Post by Terri » Tue Feb 25, 2014 2:18 pm

It may or may not be of much help to most of us, but it looks as though Sundays and Cybele is available on Blu-Ray in Japan.

link

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