Originally titled The Road To Bordeaux, Jean-Paul Rappeneau's follow-up to Cyrano De Bergerac and The Horseman On The Roof shows the septuagenarian French helmer has lost none of his appetite for period spectacle. Set during the Fall of France in June 1940, it's a rollicking adventure yarn with a stellar cast and an engaging Hitchcockian flavour. If there is a hint of 'Allo 'Allo in the rather farcical intrigue, it's a small price to pay for such a well-crafted and spirited caper.
With Paris occupied by the Germans and the entire capital relocating to Bordeaux, it's clear that the problems of the little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. For young writer Frédéric (Grégori Derangère), however, this pivotal stage in history takes a backseat to his devotion for pampered screen star Viviane (Isabelle Adjani, filling in for the pregnant Sophie Marceau). Only after he agrees to carry the can for the murder of her boyfriend does he realise that she's played him for a sap.
"OLD-FASHIONED MIX OF ESPIONAGE AND ROMANCE"
Luckily for Frédéric, the authorities empty the jails before his life sentence can begin. Teaming up with conman Raoul (Yvan Attal) he sets off after Viviane, only to find her in the arms of a minister (Gérard Depardieu) who's in the process of establishing a collaborationist government. Throw in a Nazi spy (Peter Coyote), a pretty student (Virginie Ledoyen), and a vital supply of hard water, and you have an old-fashioned cocktail of espionage and romance that makes up for what it lacks in coherence with oodles of style.
OK, it's a little hokey, with the nostalgic glow never quite masking problems with focus or a screenplay that doesn't know how to resolve its myriad subplots satisfactorily. If you share the director's passion for 40s melodrama, however, you're in for a treat.
In French with English subtitles.
Bon Voyage is released in UK cinemas on Friday 14th May 2004.