Sundays and Cybèle (1962) Poster

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Standing Alone
harry-7628 November 2003
When "Les Dimanches de ville d'Avray" first debuted in Manhattan, New York Times Critic Bosley Crowther hailed it as a genuine masterpiece.

New Yorkers flocked to see it, and agreed. Serge Bourguignon in only his third film work was predicted to become a major film director. Who could have predicted he would make only three more movies?

Lead actor Hardy Kruger went on to a prolific career, but talented eleven year old Patricia Gozzi retired after only a few more films.

So this film has become somewhat of an oddity: a brilliantly directed, photographed and acted drama, that has the look and feel of a timeless treasure. Yet, it stands alone without past or future--a fabulous work with nowhere to place it.

Unfortunately today, existing video prints are of poor quality; besides, it demands a big screen and pristine print to do it justice. Thus the film has virtually become a lost gem, pleading for restoration and re-release.
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I own this film!!!
Peter2460121 December 2004
Hello to all the other lovers of this stupendously beautiful film, wherever you may be in the world. This is not a review as such, other than to say that "Sundays and Cybele" is without doubt the most exquisite, heartbreaking, sublime, delicate, moving and transcendental movie ever created. The purpose of this 'post' is to let you all know that, way down-under here in Melbourne, Australia, I am the fortunate owner of a 16mm cinemas-cope print of this absolute masterpiece. My email address is displayed above. You are welcome to email me personally. If there is ever a possibility that you could get to beautiful Melbourne, I would be proud and delighted to screen the film for you. I myself have resisted the temptation to acquire the film on video...that would seem only to trivialize it, by reducing it to the same size (& therefore stature) as television programs. It is a film to be enjoyed on the big screen and I am doubly fortunate, because there is a small cinema here in Melbourne, seating about 50, which I hire out on those occasions when I can't wait another day to see the film. At the present rate, I screen it about 4 or 5 times a year, sometimes just with myself and 1 other, sometimes with an invited audience of 15 or 20. If at any time any of you readers of this communication would like to take the trouble to journey to Melbourne, Australia, I would gladly run the movie for you, at no cost to you. When I meet you, I will also proudly show you Hardy Kruger's autograph to me, written on an original A4 size poster for the film, which, as a reckless teenager, I stole from its display case on the final day of its big screen season here in Melbourne (in 1964). 14 years later, in 1978, I was lucky enough to meet Hardy when he came to Australia to promote a film he made here ("Storm Boy"). And guess what he said to me when I unrolled the poster and asked if he would sign it? "Ah, my favorite film!!". I am like many of you...I have been haunted, inspired, intoxicated, transported in ecstasy, plunged into the deepest of despair by that extraordinary film ever since. It is an unforgettable encounter with great beauty. Let me know if you can come here to see it. We'll have a wonderful evening. Peter Byrne, Australia.
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Still potent, 40 years later
maxwellhoffmann26 December 2002
A remarkable film with an astonishing capacity to touch your heart and open your mind. A refreshingly original story that doesn't lapse into exploiting potentially "adult" themes.

Hardy Kruger succeeds in taking you with his character into his child like view of the world (caused by shell shock in Indochine). Patricia Gozzi is a rare child actress whose performance is completely free of the usual self-conscious effort found in recent films. Entire cast is strong.

The black and white cinematography is amongst the best I've ever seen. The camera seems remarkably aware of textures and temperatures. Some images are reminiscent of Ansel Adams' silver gelatin prints. Don't miss any opportunity to see this rare gem of a film. The characters, stories and images will follow you for a long, long time. It will make you wish that Director Serge Bourguignon had a much longer filmography.
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Si belle
dbdumonteil25 July 2007
I'm the first French user to write about "Cybèle ou Les Dimanches de Ville D'Avray".Serge Bourguignon's work belongs to that handful of movies the reputation of which is much more considerable abroad than in their native country .And when I write "much more" ,I mean it .Other examples are "Au Coeur de la Vie/La Rivière Du Hibou aka Occurrence at Owl Bridge Creek " by Robert Enrico,"Kapo" by Pontecorvo -made with French money and featuring French actors-or "Le Ballon Rouge" by Albert Lamorisse.French TV has not screened it for decades, not even the cultural channel,Arte .It's not available on DVD either.General critic opinion towards the movie adds up to a consensus that ,well,it's OK ,moving,but it's artificial (sic) poetry and mannered cinematography (and nevertheless,it's Henri Decae's).In France ,"Cybèle" is slowly but inexorably falling into oblivion.One should add that it was released when the notorious Nouvelle Vague was ruling and the fusty Cahiers du Cinema were the holy writ and all those who were not part of the young Turks were dismissed as cheesy.

"Cybèle" is perhaps not the masterpiece many people hail abroad,but it's an unique extremely endearing film ,better than 90% of the French movies which were made here in the early sixties.Hardy Kruger,a German actor whose French is perfect is one of the most sensitive thespians of his generation :I urge people who liked his performance to try and see "Le Franciscain de Bourges" where he plays a Nazi priest,a saint in a living Hell ;he refused any fee to play that character.Such is this man! Kruger portrays here a man who suffers from amnesia because of the horrible things he had to do during the war.He is desperately in need of a past.And it makes sense that his journey leads him to childhood.When you are desperate yourself,don't you think of the days when you were a child?Françoise/Cybèle has a -sad- past,but when her father left her,she hasn't got a future anymore.Pierre means everything to her: her father,her playmate,her husband (when you're 36,I'll be 18 ,we will get married!).I've rarely seen a film where two people need each other so bad.Only Carlos(Daniel Ivernel) ,a friend, has understood.Neither the clairvoyant nor the shrink (André Oumansky)with his overblown theories ("He killed a little girl in the war,he'll do it again just to get punished!")can enter their world.

Because there are two worlds: the world of childhood,with the long walks in the landscapes where the trees and the lakes gain another dimension,the games ,the songs ("Aux Marches du Palais" being par excellence a magic tale of an enchanted country where 'the king's horses could drink in the river which flows in the middle of the "so beautiful (=si belle) girl's so wide bed ") and of course Christmas .The adult world is hostile,it means a return to mediocrity, to a stark present (the wedding meal is the best example).It's not a coincidence if the two worlds collide at the fair in the bumper cars !

Let's not forget the stunning soundtrack ,using profane (the Greek Goddess)and sacred music ,French folk songs , noises which recall Musique Concrète (Pierre cannot stand noises) whispering voices -which contrast with the girl's scream: this scream is harrowing ,that of a wounded animal ,the final scream,so to speak.-

Serge Bourguignon could be said to have started his career at the top and worked his way down.Called by Hollywood,he made a... western which sank without a trace ,then directed Brigitte Bardot in the doomed " A Coeur Joie" (1967).It's extraordinary he fell so quickly after the golden start with "Cybèle" .
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I would go into a burning building to save this rare masterpiece.
victorsargeant25 March 2006
Just remembered the title: "Sunday and Cybel".

This film had a major haunting impact upon my life.(Boston 1962)

What a beautiful story and "Sunday and Cybel" needs to be preserved on DVD.

The childlike trust, and human bond that develops between two "wounded human beings" without a hint of inappropriate sexuality, needs to be seen again and again.

I was deeply pleased, that others have found this film as lovely as I did. It warms my heart to see others recognize such tender humanity between a child and an adult.

"David and Lisa" has a similar sense of love between damaged Souls, out of darkness into the light of emotional "healing".

Being a family psychotherapist, only restores my faith in the psyche to find love in a cruel world of distrusting authorities who only know how to kill flies with hammers, and destroy people they do not understand.

Bravo to the perfect cast, direct and writers, with brilliant cinematographer, to enrich the story into a rare masterpiece. VSS
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Against the prejudice and human brutality!
Manicheus19 February 2003
One of the most beautiful cinematic statements against human small-minded prejudiced brutality. Beautifully shot in very crisp black and white. The imagery will definitely remain lodged in viewer's head for ever. It's a triumph of loving kindness and friendship over prejudice and hatred that indeed know no borders and are more or less alike anywhere on this planet. Sad News From A Strange Planet? I can't remember exactly but that was the title of a chillingly brilliant Herman Hesse story. It stems from the same universal human wound: the sadness of what we do and very frequently are as opposed to what we should and could have been in our starry essence.

The France was never more melancholy, never more beautiful. I mourn her loss and I mourn the loss of films that would evoke as much humane and poetic feeling.
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A lonely, elfin child and a man mentally disabled by war trauma find mutual trust and extraordinary friendship, with tragic consequences.
dean168520 January 2007
Forty-five years after this movie was made, it remains the most affecting movie I have ever seen. Story, script, acting, cinematography, music -- all are sublime. I keep praying this film will be released on DVD so that more people can experience its beauty and power. Hardy Kruger, playing a traumatized war veteran, and Patricia Gozzi, playing a preternaturally sensitive abandoned child, create unique and unforgettable characters. All the supporting players are perfectly true. Sundays and Cybele is unconventional enough to put off some viewers, but for those looking for poetry, mystery and magic woven with exquisite subtlety, this film is not to be missed.
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This film has haunted me since college...
Tarasicodissa21 March 2004
It is a terrible pity that this wonderful film is not on DVD. Alas, had Serge Bourgoinon gone on to make more films of equal quality it would be remembered alongside "Jules and Jim" instead of being just a footnote. The earlier poster who noted that it is precisely because he and Patricia Gozzi were meteors who cooled quickly that this film is forgotten was absolutely right.

Another point is the haunting Maurice Jarre "We're Home" theme. So much of his later soundtrack music was bombastic that is astonishing to find a simple, poignant melody used here to evoke the tenderness, beauty, and vulnerability of the world that these two are able to create in the park.
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Absolutely Beautiful Film
WilliamCKH27 February 2007
I would definitely put this film in my list of the top ten films of all time. There is a distinctive, other-worldly quality about this film that I have not seen before or since. Patricia Gozzi is absolutely breathtaking as Cybele. She is almost the mother figure in her relationship with 30-something year-old Pierre. It must've been the era, or the black and white photography, or just the way the actors and the setting were filmed but, it's one of those pictures that you can't describe, you must experience, to get the joys from it. Although I don't get affected by what most people call art, this film, to me represents the highest form of art, and it affected me greatly as a human being.
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Sundays With Cybele Is Time More Than Well Spent
writers_reign11 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's taken me a long time to catch up with this outstanding film but it was well worth the wait and I am further indebted - if that is possible - to my good friend in France for making this available to me. The theme of two wounded birds attempting to heal each other is far from new, the theme of adult and child bonding whether sexual or otherwise is, if anything, even older so this movie had a lot to beat and to say it does so hands down is to underrate it. The phrase 'adult and child' evokes anything from Lolita to Le Papillon and everything in between but nothing comes even close to this uniquely beautiful film that is reminiscent in its complex simplicity of Au Hasard, Balthazar and equally unforgettable. The two leads are absolutely SUPERB - and Hardy Kruger is the last person I thought I'd ever say that about - and completely dominate the support, fine though it is. One of its strengths is the way in which Writing, Directing and Acting surmount easily the main stumbling blocks of coincidence and outrageous fortune; consider, what are the chances that one wounded bird (Kruger) would encounter another (Pozzi) at Exactly the right time for both their psyches to respond to the healing elixir in the other or, for that matter, that a father would more or less cheerfully abandon a daughter without either a second thought or a plausible reason and that a second man bearing no resemblance to the biological father would not face even the most basic interrogation when turning up, claiming to be the father, and be allowed to remove her from the care of the nuns Sunday after Sunday. Perhaps paedophilia was just a word in 1964 but whatever the Artists involved in this film, as I have already stated, make us completely forget practicalities/realism and draw us inexorably into THEIR world where the tragic end is equally inexorable. I cannot speak too highly of this magnificent film which I will watch again and again.
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sweet, bitter, beautiful
jurzua13 October 2005
This film is first and foremost beautiful. The beauty of the B&W cinematography is appalling. The composition is perfect. The delicate range of grays achieve a silky texture that has an almost tactile feeling. The music by Jarré is beautiful. The child actress Patricia Gozzi is nothing but angelical in her blooming beauty.

The story is simple; a former war pilot with war trauma and amnesia and an abandoned little girl meet by chance and desperately cling to each other so as to find company and salvation. The child becomes the more mature of the couple, the adult goes along innocently and follows her counsel, advancing inexorably to his own destruction. The well intended (well, more or less well intended) adult world does not understand the delicate platonic relation, reads it as sinful and deviant, and proceeds to destroy it. The final scene is one of the most painful and desolate in the history of cinema, even though its beauty is unforgettable.

The weakness of the movie is that it has not survived well the end of the sixties. Its aesthetics is too connected to the conventions of the time. The human relations are not real enough for our time. There is a degree of rigidity, idealization and oversimplification that does not allow the film to stay alive, as is the case with the masterpieces of Fellini and Bergman. However, this does not detract the movie from its serene beauty, its evocative power, and all the nostalgic pain of a lost love.
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"Honi soit qui mal y pense" (Evil be to him who evil thinks)
tintin-231 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film's subject was risqué fifty years ago, and it remains so even now. How can one make us believe in the delicate charm of this wondrous love story between Pierre (Hardy Krüger) a shell-shocked, amnesiac, thirty-something man and a lonely twelve-year-old child, Cybèle (Patricia Gozzi) without promoting or raising the specter of pedophilia? It is the intense love story of incredible purity, a love that the cynical adult world cannot understand and will eventually condemn. Reading this film's synopsis, one immediately thinks of Lolita, except for the fact that in Sundays and Cybele the adult man is not the sexually obsessed Humbert Humbert and the young girl is not the treacherous nymphet, Dolores Haze. Under Director Serge Bourguignon, Sundays and Cybele becomes an authentic masterpiece, deeply moving, a film touched by grace and poetry, which is made even more miraculous by its controversial subject.

The relatively small cast is brilliant, starting with Patricia Gozzi's extraordinary portrayal of Cybèle as an extremely feminine, intelligent, and enchanting little girl. She plays this character with astounding insight, evoking the apparent understanding of a mature woman. Her attachment to Pierre is a mixture of her budding sexual stirrings and of the impulses to reach for the male affection she has never known in a loveless, broken home. Gozzi is without a doubt the finest child actress I have ever seen. Hardy Krüger fulfils his difficult role of Pierre with panache, as a misfit on the margins of society. He portrays a man whose life has been shattered, and who is desperately trying to find a way out of his amnesia and vertigo, to start anew, and in the process of his healing, Pierre becomes as much of a father to Cybèle as he is her big brother, her boyfriend, and even her son.

Nicole Courcel, as Madeleine, acting underscores her well-deserved reputation in the role of a loving and understanding mistress who has brought Pierre to physical health and is patiently trying to restore his mental health through her unconditional love. Daniel Ivernel, as Carlos, is also excellent in his role as Pierre's best (and only) friend and confident, a man who has tried to understand and accepted his friend's relationship with the young girl.

Sunday and Cybele is based on the eponymous novel by Bernard Echassériaux. This was Serge Bourguignon's feature film debut (and what a debut!) and it became his magnum opus. Besides the grace of the cinematic conceit and the dialogue, Bourguignon's mise-en-scene is praiseworthy from beginning to end: instead of physically and literally recreating an imaginary world, he suggests its reality through its magic. For example, there is a traveling framing of Pierre's and Cybèle's reflections in the water rather than on them directly, as well as the many contemplative shots of nature during which the dialogue is superimposed. The camera behaves as another character, a silent witness intimidated by their love, who does not dare to look them directly in the eyes, lest their innocence be corrupted. With these simple effects, Bourguignon renders the beauty and purity of their union – and also its fragility. The film puts great emphasis on intimate, silent scenes, such as the walks along the pounds and in the forest, in the cold and the mist of the winter Sundays. Although this film was made during the birth of the Nouvelle Vague, Bourguignon's film is closer to the poetic realism of Carné, Renoir, and in particular the tone in René Clément's Forbidden Games (1952).

The setting is Ville d'Avray, a small community near Paris which at the time of the filming had still retained its rustic setting, its forest with its hunting roads and famous pounds which so inspired the painter Jean Batiste Corot. The sublime photography in black and white is by Henri Decaë, who has 84 films on his résumé, including such memorable films as Louis Malle's The Lovers (1958) and François Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959). Maurice Jarre's discreet and beautiful musical score, together with a very appropriate old French song ("Aux marches du palais"), and other musical excerpts ranging from Tibetan music to works by classical composers including Thomaso Albinoni and Marc-Antoine Charpentier, and exquisite natural sounds, creates an other-worldly, timeless atmosphere.

As mentioned above, the film's subject, the relationship between an adult man and a young girl, might be extremely controversial. Although no sexual relation is ever suggested between Pierre and Cybèle, their relationship being primarily emotional in nature (in Greek mythology, the goddess Earth Mother Cybele had a eunuch mendicant priesthood). Nevertheless, many viewers and critics were none the less shocked and outraged. Times have not much changed: at a recent screening of the film at a ciné-club a few years ago, many viewers were appalled that such a "eulogy to pedophilia" could be shown. The strength of Bourguignon's film is the subtlety and sensitivity with which the subject is handled. He never looks for the shocking or the melodramatic, or poses himself as a moralist. He is simply an emotional witness to the story where a child who has grown perhaps too fast and an adult who has reverted to childhood meet and emerge from their individual loneliness. Bourguignon distances himself from the melodramatic by adopting an outsider's point of view: his genius has been to put the viewer in the position of Madeleine and Carlos, rather than that of Pierre and Cybèle. Choosing the latter for the viewpoint would certainly have been detrimental to the film, manipulating the viewer's emotions to the extreme. Following Bourguignon's suggestion, we should become a Madeleine or a Carlos, merely observing, and through our observations, try to understand
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A remastered DVD is now available
john-quinn12 October 2009
Anyone who has seen SUNDAYS AND CYBELE on the big screen (as I had the good fortune to do in 1962 when films hung around for longer than a week!), will know that this beautiful, compelling film loses a lot when viewed as a VHS tape (quite frankly, it's unwatchable because I know how much Henri Decaë's superb photography has been degraded...not to mention the subtitles which are illegible at times). Fortunately, all that changed on October 5th, 2009 when Sony/Columbia Pictures finally released a remastered, wide-screen DVD of this sensitive, Oscar-winning French film. There were times that I thought I'd never see this film again -thank God I was wrong! The other reviews of SUNDAYS & CYBELE say all that has to be said about this masterpiece. I can add no other useful information except, although this film had dated slightly (well, after all, it is over 45 years old!), it's more than watchable, it's unmissable and unforgettable! Hardy Kruger's acting is perfect, spot on as a dysfunctional adult, and Patricia Gozzi's acting will take your breath away. Why she did so little after this film (I only saw her again in RAPTURE, 1965), is a mystery to all who witnessed her acting abilities. Get this DVD and watch two of the finest performances ever to be seen on the big screen!
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Remembered this one for YEARS!!
halle9513 June 2001
Having seen this film around 1967, I was glad to read on-line a little more to refresh my memory of it...I have remembered the plot and the drama of this particular film since that time...It is that strong of a film! Something about the tenderness of the friendship between Pierre and the young girl who's name is his Christmas present from her. The tragedy lies in the fact that it truly illustrates what DOES happen in life: that people misjudge what is happening, and take regretful actions sometimes.
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Les Dimanches of Ville d'Avray
poundfarmtwo8 November 2008
I loved this movie so much that my husband and I held our small wedding lunch at the Cabassud restaurant in Ville d'Avray, on one of the two lakes painted so often by Corot and featured prominently in the film. Several years later, when my daughter married, we held a much grander wedding party for her in the same place, attended by many members of the French film colony. It happened to be the evening of the annual Ville d'Avray festival, and quite unexpectedly a procession of people carrying torches appeared out of the night to march around the lake. The wedding was as magical as the film that inspired it. Sadly, I think the film has been mostly forgotten in the United States, but one that can inspire so much romance should be revisited.
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The essence of unfair competition---
allenmac117 February 2003
---is what many an adult woman might call the result when a man she loves develops a romantic entanglement with what we call a child (in any case, as in this one, a little girl). Generally presumed to be sexual on its face, such a relationship seldom involves actual sex, but always an emotional intensity which is often, even commonly lacking from the carnal attractions of a man and woman. It is this the grown woman cannot engender, thus she envies the little girl who can. Ironically, the younger female is jealous of the older woman's capacity to possess the man sexually, and has little need nor understanding of the more complex feelings the man might have for her. Needful of both, the man usually ends up with neither, as the battle of the sexes AND the dictates of society practically foreordain.

So it is with Hardy Kruger and Patricia Gozzi, star (actually railroad station)-crossed lovers in Sundays and Cybele. Kruger served as a fighter pilot in the French air force in Indo China (Vietnam), and was wounded and traumatized in a crash in which a little Asian girl was killed. Gozzi as we meet her is being dumped in an orphanage in a Paris suburb by her harried father, who tells her it's only temporary but actually plans to abandon her, a fact which Kruger learns from eavesdropping and a letter. He follows father and daughter to the orphanage from the train station, a regular hangout of his, and notes that the father hurries off before a nun answers the door. Later he goes back, poses as the father to get the girl out on Sunday afternoons, for outings in the local area and, though it is winter and most uninviting a venue in which to form a friendship, in a park. The girl, desperately lonely, goes along with the deception, senses wound and need in the Kruger character matching her own, and they form a strongly symbolic and generally childish friendship.

Alas, Kruger lives with a girlfriend, a nurse, and she is a knockout who knows his history and has taken it upon herself to restore the man she loves to health. Alack, it's no use. Kruger retreats from her, steadily and completely, to his fantasy relationship with the child. He is troubled by dreams and flashbacks, and noises set him off. He begins to frighten the child on the Sunday outings as she divines the extent of his mental problems, so she decides they should be "married." Others in the park and on the street pick up on the liaison, and assume the worst, which sets off a chain of events that turn the "wedding ceremony" into a tragedy.

Sundays and Cybele is one of a long line of international movies that misses the boat in depicting adult/child romantic attachments, tailoring the plot elements to conform with popular notions of both the adult and the child which are at best misguided, and at worst, as in this case, a guarantee of unpleasantness and tragedy. The adult in these films, from Peter Lorre in 'M' to the chimney sweep in Emma's Shadow to the Ian Holm portrayal of Lewis Carroll in Dreamchild to Louis Gossett Jr. in Sudie & Simpson, must either be severely neurotic, a social or racial outcast, mentally retarded or outright psychotic. The child must be unloved and neglected, because how else (or why) could the adult manage to seduce or coerce the child into a relationship? "Just another love story" these tales might really be, but we have a deep need to see them as aberrations distinctly outside the pale, needful of retribution, punishments of both adult and child and, as happened to the Kruger character, needful of being put to death to insure the end of the relationship (or, as happened to Dirk Bogarde in Death In Venice, struck dead by the force of his own perversion and lustful iniquity).

So Sundays and Cybele conforms, and it is to the credit of all concerned in the filming, particularly the 12-year-old Patricia Gozzi and director Serge Bourguignon, that it rises above its imposed cliches and attains the status of something like a bleakly beautiful cinematic experience.
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Hypnotic, haunting, heartbreaking...A MASTERPIECE
dontlooknow25 June 2002
I was fortunate to catch a rare rep. theater screening of Sundays and Cybele when I was in High School. The film made a huge impact on me, and I'm happy to report 14 years later that it's as good as I remembered. Why isn't this film mentioned in the same breath as Jules et Jim and Breathless? And why does it have such a lousy video transfer? Sundays and Cybele needs to be restored and re-released- it's one of the greatest movies ever. Does anyone know why Bourguignon made so few films?
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Beautifully made and haunting
runamokprods14 November 2014
A beautiful film, in terms of both images and story. This very sweet - but never sticky -and slightly disturbing story of a platonic 'love affair' between a psychologically damaged, almost child-like ex-soldier and an emotionally abandoned 12 year old girl is deeply moving, honest, and just creepy enough in terms of in nascent sexuality hovering around the edges of the relationship to keep us from feeling too at ease. Shot in gorgeous black and white, with great use of shadows and silhouette, the images are both beautiful and mysterious -- as is the film's central relationship.

Hardy Kruger is excellent as the amnesiac soldier who has the feeling he's done something awful, but doesn't know what, or how to atone for it (we know more, having seen a dream- like flashback of his war experiences to open the film). He is lovable and sad, but we sense there's always a danger this man could lose control and cause damage without meaning to. And Patricia Gozzi is remarkable as the young girl, bringing an almost frightening amount of pain to this hurt character, and never feeling like a kid faking it for a film. There's a complex honesty to her performance combining hurt, innocent joy, emotional need, the first flickers of adult sensuality and manipulativeness, and yet a child's open heart that any seasoned actor would envy.

The film does telegraph where its headed more than once, but somehow it doesn't matter very much. It's the humanity of the telling rather than any surprise twist that makes the film work so well. We root for this odd pair to be able to maintain their bond in the face of a grown up world that doesn't understand how much these two damaged souls need each other and is, as one character puts it, afraid of any love that doesn't fit into nice neat categories. Beautifully made and haunting, it won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1962.
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Best movie I've seen in sixty years
rsd225 October 2002
Saw this film three times when it was first released in the sixties - the last time walking two miles in pouring rain and skipping study for a college math final the next day. I have not seen a film before or since that has had as powerful an effect on me. If you want to be moved and shaken at the beauty and tragedy of the human condition, see this film. Unfortunately, the video quality is poor, but see it anyway.
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Two Lonely Figures
Eumenides_031 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Pierre, a soldier traumatised in Indochina for killing a child, lives in ghost-like existence. Amnesic, detached and distracted, he spends his days at a train station waiting for his love, Madeleine, to come from work. One day he meets a lonely girl interned in a school and plots an ingenious plan to get her to see every Sunday, by pretending to be her father come to take her out. These two figures, abandoned as they are, are perfect for each other.

Serge Bourguignon's Sundays and Cybele is one of those intimate dramas built on almost nothing, so simple and straightforward it is. The movie focuses almost exclusively on Pierre and Cybele, their strolls to the park, and the emotional relief she gives him.

The black-and-white cinematography complements the story perfectly, since Pierre's world is also one of dualisms: life and death, adult corruption and youthful innocence, honesty with Cybele and deception with everyone else.

Hardy Kruger plays Pierre with feeling, looking like a man who lives lost in a world he's cut off from. He has trouble communicating his ideas and expresses himself with facial expressions and his clumsy body movements. Patricia Gozzi plays the 12-year-old Cybele and I wonder why she didn't triumph in film: at a tender age she showed more talent than many adult actors.

Melancholy, serene and introspective, Sundays and Cybele is a drama not to be missed by anyone who enjoys quiet movies built on powerful relationships.
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Naturalness and honesty
howard.schumann12 January 2013
Two damaged individuals, a precocious twelve-year old girl (Patricia Gozzi) abandoned by her parents and orphaned to a convent and a shell-shocked 30-year-old war veteran suffering from amnesia and vertigo (Hardy Kruger), form a deep emotional bond that is misunderstood and greeted with hostility by others.

While their relationship appears to be fraught with the possibility of tragedy, the two find in each other a place to retreat from their unbearable loneliness and loss. While the film is somewhat over-determined, it has a remarkable childlike quality and is performed with startling naturalness and honesty.
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SUNDAYS AND CYBELE (Serge Bourguignon, 1962) ***
Bunuel197628 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
In my view, the reason why this Foreign Language Oscar-winning film is mostly forgotten today is not because it is, as the late British critic Leslie Halliwell opined as early as 1977, "a fashionable film of its time which now has little to offer" but because its director is, unenviably, the veritable cinematic embodiment of a 'one hit wonder'. Unsurprisingly, the accolades which accompanied SUNDAYS AND CYBELE opened for its undeniably talented director Serge Bourguignon the doors of Hollywood but, perhaps just as predictably, his work there never amounted to much and, sadly, 7 years and 3 films later, he dropped completely out of sight and mind. For the record, I did get to see his first Hollywood foray THE REWARD (1965; with Max von Sydow and Gilbert Roland) which, indeed, promised much but delivered very little and, for what it's worth, his next 2 ventures – TWO WEEKS IN September (1967; with Brigitte Bardot and Laurent Terzieff) and THE PICASSO SUMMER (1969; with Albert Finney and Yvette Mimieux) – while also seemingly interesting are, by all accounts, respectively bland and boring!Anyway, the strikingly-directed SUNDAYS AND CYBELE deservedly beat notable competitors like Michael Cacoyannis' ELEKTRA and Nanni Loy's THE FOUR DAYS OF NAPLES (both of which I also own but, so far, am only familiar with the former) at the Oscars, with its moving and, ultimately, tragic story of a misunderstood friendship between an amnesiac 30-year old fighter pilot (Hardy Kruger) and an abandoned, precocious 12-year old schoolgirl (Patricia Gozzi); Maurice Jarre's score was also, rather unaccountably, nominated for an Oscar – in view of the fact that it makes copious use of classical pieces and Gregorian chants. Over the film's opening credits, Kruger is shown mowing down a child during an air raid – a traumatic event which left him so guilt-ridden that the vile abandonment of the little girl by her father at a railway station is unbearable to him…to the extent that he impulsively takes to impersonating him every Sunday, picking her up at her convent school and going on afternoon outings in the woods. Meanwhile, Kruger is being cared for and lives with his nurse (Nicole Courcel) and has bonded with a friendly sculptor (Daniel Ivernel) who, while appreciating the soothing effect the meetings with Gozzi are having on Kruger, also fear that his violent mood swings may eventually endanger the girl. Events come to a head during an enforced wedding party and the subsequent visit to a fairground and, especially, the fatal intervention of the nurse's jealous colleague who brings in the Police when Kruger goes missing on Christmas Eve. As I intimated earlier, the potential sentimentality of the story is kept admirably at bay by the ultra-stylish handling and excellent performances all round; conversely, the main flaws of the film, are a rather deliberate pace and a slightly misjudged ending: while I found the choice to have Kruger's demise occur offscreen effective, I think it would have been even more so had Kruger fallen to his death while trying to steal the all-important (to Gozzi) weathercock off the church steeple rather than being shot dead by the Police for approaching Gozzi with a knife clasped in his hand! The print I saw was a serviceable but very battered one (extremely soft, with a virtually inexistent blackscale and the hard-coded white subtitles occasionally unreadable when appearing against the snowy landscape) – which again points to the unfortunate neglect this film has been subjected to over the years.
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The Innocent and the Childlike
gavin69423 November 2014
After killing a child on a routine bombing mission in Vietnam, Pierre (Hardy Kruger) suffers from delayed stress and partial amnesia. Returning to France, he lives like a vegetable until he meets a young girl (Patricia Gozzi) who has been dumped by her father at a boarding school.

What makes this film notable, in retrospect, is its story of Vietnam and the torment it caused a man. Although countless American films have done this, most were late on the scene, and almost all focus on the American experience. Myopic Americans may have forgotten the French had a much greater part to play in the region, and their story is rarely told.

Oddly, the controversy that resulted from this film had nothing to do with its theme of Vietnam, but rather with the theme of pedophilia, which never even explicitly comes up. Despite the clear relationship of an innocent surrogate father, Pierre has been painted by some as a predator. Why? Perhaps because of the novel's take on him, which is markedly different. Coincidentally, Kubrick's "Lolita" was released this same year (1962); if viewers wanted to compare film about adult relationships to children, they did not have far to go in order to find grossly disparate stories.

Regarding the cast, Patricia Gozzi is a charming young actress, perhaps better known for her role in "Rapture" (1965). For some reason, she stopped acting following "Hung Up" (1973), when she was only 22. Kruger has had a much longer career and is thought of as one of the greatest German actors of the 1960s and is arguably the first German actor to have been accepted as a protagonist by audiences outside Germany post World War II.

Director Serge Bourguignon is a great unknown, with any attempt to learn about him leading back to this film. We know prior to this he had studied painting and sculpture, and made some short documentaries (including the Cannes favorite "Le soirire" in 1960). He gave up directing in 1969 following some American flops (which have since gained small cult followings), although he lived for a great many more decades (as of November 2014 he is still alive). What has he been up to?

The film's success took an unusual path. Initially turned down in France for distribution, the movie was a huge critical success in America, being hailed as a "masterpiece" by the New York Times and winning the foreign language Oscar. Then French theaters could not wait to screen it. The second time in France was mixed, as critics had become obsessed with the New Wave, and Bourguignon had a very different sensibility than his peers.

This is a film well worth discovering (or re-discovering) by all, especially the young at heart.
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rick_77 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A childlike amnesiac (Hardy Kruger), unable to repair his life after a wartime plane crash, befriends a 12-year-old girl abandoned by her father. They enjoy blissful Sundays together, aside from his periodic attacks of irrationality, but outsiders begin to distrust the relationship, leading to tragedy. This intensely moving, truly original drama – with increasingly spare comic touches – confronts the cynicism, horror and alienation of the adult world, Bourguignon ingeniously shifting styles to contrast the stifling mundanity of Kruger's apartment – and his unconnected life – with the tranquil idyll of the park where he and Cybele indulge in transcendent fantasy. It isn't that Kruger doesn't have love in his adult life, just that he wants to shrink from the world that forced him to gun down an innocent child. He, young Patricia Gozzi and Nicole Courcel – as the protagonist's conflicted girlfriend Madeleine – are terrific, while the film boasts some of the most striking black-and-white photography you'll ever see: an endlessly creative variety of shots drawing you inexorably in to the heartbreaking story.
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One Of My Favorite Christmas Films
Jimmy_the_Gent413 December 2019
A soldier recovering from trauma while on a bombing mission develops a friendship with an abandoned little girl.

This is a touching and haunting film with beautiful performances by Hardy Kruger and Patricia Gozzi. It starts as Kruger meets sad little girl Gozzi who is being dropped off by her stern father at a Catholic boarding school. Kruger finds out the man is not going to come back. He meets the girl again and she develops a crush on him, he loves her as well. They meet every Sunday as he poses as her father. It may sound strange but it is perfectly sweet and innocent. Since the man is suffering from amnesia and battle fatigue he is no more than a child himself, so the film is a love story between two lost children. The film's B&W photography is sumptuous, the scenes at a pond with the ripples are beautiful to look at. It is also set at wintertime in France so you can see the actors' breath and the foggy areas in the woods.

The final section of the film is set at Christmas and it has been a staple for me at Yuletide. However the finale is shocking and tragic. The two vow to spend Christmas together and there is a striking scene of Kruger carrying a fully decorated Christmas tree through the streets. Other people who have observed the duo together and misunderstand what they see all comes to a head at the end. Be prepared for this and you will never forget it.
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