Diane Kurys' portrait of famed French novelist, playwright and screenwriter Francois Sagan is a committed, if curious addition to the ranks of recent celebrity biopics like La vie en rose and Coco avant Chanel. Obviously made for an audience familiar with Sagan's stardom, Kurys reveals very little about her work, instead focusing on the heady series of soirees and scandals that punctuated Sagan's life.
Opening with the writer as an elderly, abandoned woman in a run-down manor, Sagan is predominantly told in flashback, beginning in 1954 with a 19-year old Francois Quoirez's (her pseudonym came by way of a Marcel Proust character) stratospheric success upon the publication of her most famous book, Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness). This novel was to sell 5 million copies worldwide and its teenage author became a defining figure of an existentialist, partying, post-war Paris.
While Kurys attempts to chronicle the ensuing half-century of whiskey soaked words, failed marriages and dizzying excess, it all ends up feeling disappointingly superficial. Trimmed from its original form as a two part miniseries, one wonders how much detail was lost bringing Sagan to the silver screen. Instead the film succumbs to the pitfall of many biopics, which falter under the weight of their subject's lifetime. So despite Sylvie Testud’s striking embodiment and evocative narration, it is with a sense of mere interested detachment that you learn about Sagan’s lovelorn, reckless existence. And yet, though the film will leave you with a lot of unanswered questions, it may just succeed in piquing your interest to read the book that began it all.
Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date (limited): 7 October 2010