Lucie (Geraldine Chaplin) is frustrated with the way her husband treats her - she longs for the days when the couple made love. Lucie is eager to share her woes with longtime friend Helene (Dominique Sanda).
Helene is looking to rent a house in the French countryside. She invites her friend Lucie to join her and they embark on a relaxing journey away from the city. Soon the two friends become closer than they would have ever thought possible.
Voyage en Douce (1980) is a quiet film about two women who gradually become fascinated by each other while struggling to regain their identity. Lucie, the more vulnerable and visibly hurt character, is also the one who undergoes a remarkable transformation through the course of this film. When we first meet her she appears as someone who has been seriously hurt in a relationship where most if not all has been lost. Lucie is on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Helene is the more complex and in my opinion unpredictable character. At first she appears confident and happy with the direction her life follows. Her family is what keeps her going. She offers Lucie a relaxing trip through the sunny French countryside where she hopes her friend will recover. Surprisingly however the closer the two women become the more unstable Helene gets. Even more surprisingly it is now Helene whose life appears to be seriously damaged.
There is hardly anything in Michel Deville's film that I disliked. The beautiful story, the impressive cinematography as well as the intelligent script truly transform Voyage en Douce into a pleasure to behold. This is a film where a simple journey of healing grows into a remarkable exploration of the female psyche with more than a few notable twists. The main characters played by the beautiful Dominique Sanda and the sophisticated Geraldine Chaplin are both intriguing and believable, their acting splendid.
I think that it is extremely difficult to make a film where mid-life crisis is addressed without resorting to the "usual suspects"- sex, financial woes, age, etc. All of these themes typically lock film-directors into an area where no matter how careful one is at the end the viewer always gets that too familiar "seen that, done that" feeling. Therefore, it is the nuanced performance(s) that must elevate the story into something special, something worthy of our attention.
In Voyage en Douce Michel Deville has selected the perfect actors for the mid-life crisis the main protagonists are battling.
Finally there is a scene in this film that simply begs to be noted. It is funny, suggestive, and truly erotic! The seductive game between Helen, Lucie, and the local boy from the old hotel isn't explicit yet it is sexier than a lot of the "provocative" acts I have seen produced by Hollywood. Pay close attention to the women's faces…they reveal plenty!!
How Does the DVD Look?
The transfer here looks deceivingly good!! Voyage en Douce is presented in an aspect ratio gravitating around the 1.60:1 mark (I am unsure what the original aspect ratio of this film is but I am most certain it is not what we have here) and in a typical for New Yorker fashion appears to have been taken from a PAL carrier. So, being an unconverted port the R1 disc offers some visible "ghosting" and those of you with progressive sets will surely notice it. On the positive side the actual print is not that terrible, quite the opposite in fact: colors are acceptable, contrast is manageable, and I did not notice serious print damage. Overall, if you have seen or you already own a New Yorker disc of a European film then you pretty much know what to expect from the studio: this disc is not an exception! Sadly!!
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with its original French 2.0 track the DVD herein discussed gets the job done! The dialog is very easy to follow and I did not detect any disturbing hissing or dropouts. In fact, I thought that the quality of the audio track was much better than what a film made in the early 80s would have offered.
Unfortunately, there isn't a single bit of supplemental material here!!
This is my first time seeing this film and I absolutely loved it!! Both Dominique Sanda and Geraldine Chaplin deliver top notch performances!! The story is very well told and if you enjoy character-driven stories then this film comes highly recommended. Unfortunately the DVD is once again one of those dreaded PAL-ports so approach with caution!! RECOMMENDED.