Sundays and Cybele (1962): Serge Bourguignon’s French Oscar Winner

The charming French film, Sundays and Cybele, directed and co-written by Serge Bourguignon, is based on a novel by Bernard Eschasseriaux, who collaborated on the screenplay.

Grade: A (**** out of *****)

Sundays and Cybele
Original poster of Sundays and Cybele..jpg

Original French poster 1962

Its original French title is Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray (Sundays in Ville d’Avray), refers to the Ville-d’Avray suburb of Paris.

A German soldier (played by Hardy Kruger), who had suffered emotional and mental damages from a plane crash during the French Indochina War, is mistaken to be the father of a young girl in a French boarding school.

The story centers on the intimate, unlikely friendship that evolves between the girl and the German, who spend most of their Sundays together.

Things change when his nurse spots him in the forest with the girl, leading to some tragic results.

Narrative Structure: Tragic Ending (Spoiler Alert)

As Pierre has nothing to give Cybèle for Christmas, he accepts her challenge to bring her the metal rooster from the top of a Gothic church near the orphanage.  The pilot musters the nerve to climb the 300-foot steeple, and uses his knife to unscrew the rooster.

However, upon return, with the metal rooster and his knife, the police arrive and shoot him dead to “protect” the child, assuming she was in danger. Cybèle, awakened to the horror of seeing that her dead friend, cries in anguish.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Foreign Language Film

Screenplay (Adapted): Serge Bourguignon and Antoine Tudal

Scoring: Maurice Jarre

Oscar Awards: 1

Foreign Language Film

Oscar Context

The winner of the Screenplay Oscar was John Osborn for “Tom Jones,” which also won Best Picture. Billy Wilder’s “Irma La Douce” received the Scoring Award.

The French feature won the foreign language Oscar in a contest that included “Electra” from Greece, “The Four Days of Naples” from Italy, “The Keeper of Promises” (aka “The Given World”) from Brazil, and “Tlayucan” from Mexico.

Critical Status:

Sundance and Cybele also won the Best Foreign Language Film from the National Board of Review (NBR).

Hardy Krüger as Pierre
Nicole Courcel as Madeleine
Patricia Gozzi as Cybèle/Françoise
Daniel Ivernel as Carlos
André Oumansky as Bernard


Directed by Serge Bourguignon
Produced by Romain Pinès
Screenplay by Serge Bourguignon, Antoine Tudal, Bernard Eschassériaux, based on Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray by Bernard Eschassériaux
Music by Maurice Jarre
Distributed by Davis-Royal

Columbia Pictures

Release date: November 12, 1962

Running time: 110 minute