Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Sundays and Cybele

(Les dimanches de Ville d'Avray, France, 1962)

Translation: Sundays in Ville d’Avray I am so, so glad I found this. It is an exceptional film. It has a warm heart … and a sad ending. But it is done with such lyrical perfection. If you can stand heartbreak, see this at once.

Hardy Krüger is a man suffering from what I guess you would call PTSD. He was a fighter pilot in Indochina, and he suffered a terrible plane crash, and might have killed a Vietnamese child. But he doesn’t really remember. He has blocked it all out. One night he witnesses a man dropping a twelve-year-old girl off at a convent school. The man tells her he will visit her every Sunday. Then he rushes back to the train station and mentions to the attendant there that he will never be back.

Pierre can’t stand the thought of that. Next Sunday he visits the convent and, sort of by accident, he is taken to be the girl’s father. The girl, Cybele, picks up on it right away. She know the piece of shit father was never coming back. So begins one of the sweetest relationships I’ve ever seen in a film. Each Sunday he comes back to pick her up. She is a child, though a wise and perceptive one, and his condition has left him childlike. Basically they play together.

You know it has to end badly. I thought and thought and thought and just couldn’t see any way to get a happy ending here that would not be totally false, completely phony. She is a child, and he is a mentally disturbed man. What’s he going to do? Adopt her? They will inevitably be found out … and then what? The answer is one of the most wrenching scenes I’ve ever watched.

Much of the power of this film, and particularly the last scene, comes down to Patricia Gozzi. She is stunningly good. She seduced me totally within two minutes. She made this movie, and was apparently very good three years later in a film called Rapture … and then retired except for a TV movie and a film called Hung Up. It’s our loss. She could have been one of the greats if she wanted to be. Apparently she didn’t.

One odd thing. Hardy Krüger is a German. You’ve probably seen him in several movies, like Flight of the Phoenix and Barry Lyndon. And I don’t know about now, but in 1962 he did not speak French! It’s a mystery to me why anyone would cast a non-French speaking man. But it worked. He memorized his lines phonetically, and turned in a great performance. So you never know, do you?