Review: In ‘Rendezvous in July,’ Young Parisians Are on the Move
Glenn KennyJuly 31, 2018
Maurice Ronet and Brigitte Auber in “Rendezvous in July.”Film Forum
Movies about young adults figuring out what to do with their lives are more than plentiful today, but they sure weren’t in 1949 — which is when the great French director Jacques Becker made “Rendezvous in July.” The picture is having its official New York premiere this week as part of a retrospective of Becker’s works at Film Forum (which is itself reopening after an extensive renovation project).
This story about a close-knit group of twentysomething (and possibly younger) friends and lovers in postwar Paris stars Daniel Gélin as Lucien Bonnard, an ambitious cultural anthropologist. The movie opens at a formal lunch at Lucien’s family home. His martinet father upbraids every family member present. With determined calm, Lucien gets up from the table, makes a phone call, packs a suitcase, and leaves the apartment, for the last time.
As he goes off to pursue his ambitions, we learn about his circle. The phone call is to his girlfriend, Christine (Nicole Courcel, who here brings to mind a young Marilyn Monroe). She is a would-be actress, but one suspects she’s being pushed into a project by her playwright brother, François (Philippe Mareuil). Lucien’s best friend, Roger (Maurice Ronet), trained as a cinematographer, spends most of his time playing trumpet at the jazz bar Caveau des Lorientais (where real-life jazz great Rex Stewart makes a cameo appearance late in the picture).
A preview of the film.July 25, 2018
Roger’s girlfriend, Thérèse (Brigitte Auber), is an actress, and a good, dedicated one; she and Christine both study with the same acting coach. They are soon cast in François’ own play, which is being directed by a wunderkind who takes a romantic interest in Christine, while François covets Thérèse.
When Christine is seduced by and subsequently entangled with her director, Lucien doesn’t let their breakup break his stride. He hits up seemingly every foundation, academy or relevant commercial enterprise in Paris to finance his documentary film project, which will involve several months in Africa. Once everything’s in place, we learn that his pals are all meant to be in on the project, and a few of them, cozy in their bohemian homebody states, get cold feet on learning it’s a go. Lucien inspires them with a fiery speech. And he’s also, by this point, invested in getting back what he considers romantically his.
Becker was in his early 40s and had several features under his belt when he made this movie, which feels like a personal project for him. His subsequent career would find him moving from genre to genre. But whether it was the period drama, “Casque d’Or” of 1952, the 1954 aging-gangster picture “Touchez Pas au Grisbi,” or the prison-break movie “Le Trou” (Becker’s last work; tragically, he died in 1960, the year of its release, at age 53), his pictures always felt authoritative to the point of being definitive.
So too does “Rendezvous,” which is superabundant in charm, wit and soul, and has many expressive visual touches. Especially in a climactic dinner-party scene that is set in an ideal bohemian quasi loft, replete with dark corners where the film’s romantic couples can square off or make out.
Correction: August 1, 2018
An earlier version of the picture caption with this review, using information from a publicist, misidentified the two actors. They are Maurice Ronet and Brigitte Auber, not Daniel Gélin and Nicole Courcel.
Rendezvous in July
Not rated. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes.
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