Anatole Litvak’s adaptation of Francoise Sagan’s best selling-novella, from a screenplay by Samuel A. Taylor, is a well acted melodrama, centering on an “unusual” romantic triangle.
The film world-premiered at the Cannes Film Fest, where Anthony Perkins won the Best Actor Award.
Sagan’s novella is titled “Aimez-Vous Brahms,” and indeed, the soundtrack employs music by the famous composer. The Johannes Brahms motifs are the 4th movement from Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, and the third Movement from Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90. The soulful theme of Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 is heard repeatedly, alongside the tune of the song “Say No More, It’s Goodbye,” sung by the nightclub singer (Diahann Carroll).
Ingrid Bergman plays Paula, a still-beautiful, 40-year old, highly successful businesswoman. She is deeply in love with Roger (Yves Montand), her consort of five years. Roger is a charming man, who claims to love Paula, but he is too selfish to give up his sexual freedom.
When Paula meets Phillip (Anthony Perkins), the 24-year old, immature lawyer, son of a rich clients, he falls in love with the glamorous, older woman, insisting that the age difference should not—and will not—be a barrier to their romance. Paula resists the young man’s persistent advances, but finally succumbs when Roger initiates yet another affair with one of his young “Maisies.”
Needless to say, as soon as the affair begins and Paula starts to relax, the couple encounters criticism, gossip, and resistance from various members of their entourage, including Phillip’s domineering mother (superbly played by Jessie Royce Landis) and Paula’s work associates
The film has not dated well, largely because of the subject matter. While in 1961, a romance between an older femme and a younger man was considered to be bold and unconventional, in today’s climate it doesn’t shock anymore. Even so, the last image of Bergman’s Paula, all alone in her apartment, sitting in front of the mirror, removing her make-up while examining her aging face, is quite touching and powerful.
At the time, critics complained that Perkins was too boyish and perhaps too gay to please a suave woman like Bergman. There’s no erotic charge between them, and they often look and behave like older sister and younger brother. Perkins shot this picture right after his work for Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” a seminal film which forever shaped his screen image to some very negative results.
The distinguished supporting cast includes Jessie Royce Landis, Jocelyn Lane, Jean Clarke, Pierre Dux, Michèle Mercier, Diahann Carroll, Uta Taeger, Peter Bull, and Alison Leggatt, with uncredited appearances by Yul Brynner, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Sacha Distel, and Françoise Sagan.
Otto Preminger’s version of another novella by Francoise Sagan, “Bonjour Tristesse,” is a better film.
Yul Brynner (uncredited here) appeared with ingrid Bergman in “Anastasia,” in 1961, for which she won her second Best Actress Oscar.
Directed By: Anatole Litvak
Screenplay: Samuel A. Taylor
Theatrical Release: June 29, 1961
DVD: December 1, 1993