DRAMA; 1hr 57min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Sylvie Testud, Pierre Palmade, Jeanne Balibar
A novel life: Testud
The life of French novelist, playwright and screenwriter Françoise Sagan (Testud), née Françoise Quoirez, should have made a humdinger of a movie. After her 1954 debut novel, Bonjour Tristesse (“Hello Sadness”), “turned me into a freak show,” as Testud narrates in this scattershot biopic from director Diane Kurys, Sagan’s bourgeois life spins into overdrive. It’s 1953 and she is all of 18, ferociously and precociously gifted, terrible with money and a party gal from her pixie crop to her kittenish heels.
In her writing and her radical, boundary-shattering style, the impulsive, extravagant Sagan is uncompromisingly honest. As played by a gamine Testud, she is a restless little bird, skittering through bisexual relationships and new sensations with cool disregard for convention. Kurys obviously adores her, and why not? The lady is a whirlwind original. What’s lacking here is the clarity of vision to crawl beneath her skin. As erratic as the woman it strives to capture, the film — originally a two-part telemovie — darts erratically through Sagan’s 59 tempestuous years, abounding in chic impressions that are no substitute for the writer’s eloquent voice.