Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage for TIFF’s Notorious: Celebrating the Ingrid Bergman Centenary. For more information on this TIFF film series visit http://tiff.net and follow TIFF on Twitter at @TIFF_NET.
Directed by Anatole Litvak and set in the romantic streets of Paris, Goodbye, Again (1961) illustrates the deeply complex nature of love and courtship in the lives of uncertain, constantly changing people—flawed humans with multiple dimensions and qualities. Quite easily the strongest aspect of the film is character depth, generated by an exceptional adaptation of Francoise Sagan’s Aimez-Vous Brahms? by Samuel A. Taylor. This doesn’t go without mentioning the incredible performances on display, particularly from Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Perkins, who so authentically bring Sagan’s characters to life.
The film begins with a montage of Parisian streets while Brahms’ “Symphony No. 3” guides intercut footage introducing the three leading characters, each acting in such a way as to declare their current disposition. Much is told during these poetically expressed opening credits. Paula (Ingrid Bergman) searches for a taxi but is constantly ignored, metaphorically expressing how her current life involves a search for something, or someone, to give her what she needs. The film focuses greatly on Paula’s desire for Roger’s committed affection, but like the Parisian taxi cabs, Roger is not interested only in her. Roger (Yves Montand) is seen walking the streets while making eyes at all the women he passes. His flirtatious and perhaps selfish attitude is immediately recognized; he is a Casanova unable to avert his coy manners, as seen in his attitude towards his supposed love, Paula. Philip (Anthony Perkins) drives quickly through the Parisian streets. Cruising past the Arc de triomphe, his youthful smile and romantic idealist attitude is palpably seen. He has a joy and passion for life that will soon be seen in his deep passion for Paula, a woman 15 years his senior and seemingly unloved by Roger, whom she has seen for five years.
The film focuses greatly on Paula’s desire for Roger’s committed affection, but like the Parisian taxi cabs, Roger is not interested only in her.
Rhythmically and poetically intertwined are the first and final scenes of the film. Clearly the most powerful cinematic aspect of the film involves a perfectly mirrored mise-en-scene and narrative between these scenes. In the first, Paula excitedly speaks with her housekeeper, screen left, who is continually called for then dismissed at Paula’s whims, with the camera tracking her movements towards and away from Paula. The phone rings and Paula’s whimsical mood disappears. On their five-year anniversary, Roger has cancelled their date. Paula forlornly says “goodbye,” and is next seen in front of the mirror removing her makeup. In an exceptionally poignant final scene, after all the drama in between, a similar event occurs. This time, the housekeeper is to Paula’s right, while she is in the bedroom. Again, Paula whimsically and excitedly calls to her. The camera tracks back and forth in much the same manner. The phone is heard, and for the second and final time, we hear her sadly repeat the word “goodbye.” It is goodbye, again, to Roger, who clearly has not changed his ways. In a most affective final shot, Paula again removes her makeup in front of the mirror. Her sad eyes break one’s heart, as the screen closes like a door, with a wipe from both sides, to pause in close up on her face once more before shutting the door on her forever.
The characters are flawed, but authentic, and their actions are rooted in their psychology, made clear through the multiple grand performances.
Between these two most-important and most-cinematic of scenes, which not only bookend the film, but culminate the thematic interests of the writer, are a series of events wherein Roger becomes further despondent while Philip ceaselessly tries for her affection. To almost stalker-like levels, Philip makes advances which simultaneously disturb and charm Paula. Amused by his playfulness, she enjoys the fact that he shares his undeniable love with her, but all the same, she wishes such advances were coming from Roger, whose constant let-downs only help to break down Paula’s security and emotional state. In such a state, she begins to accept Philip’s advances, perhaps not out of love, but out of the need to feel loved by someone else. Philip recognizes this, and his love for her, though true, drives him to a certain degree of self-loathing and insecurity. A perhaps manic-depressive, Philip’s life becomes all about Paula, in attempts to woo her; it is the extreme of what she wants and paradoxically pushes her away. He leaves his job, he waits around for her, and he drinks when he’s not with her. She regrets how, at 40, her presence is ruining the ambition of a young 25 year old who ought to be starting his life rather than ending it with her. During these complicated times, a jealous Roger eventually makes an attempt to get Paula back, and with his promised word to love her, and to marry her, she immediately returns to him, leaving Philip utterly heartbroken.
Goodbye, Again is certainly a triumph of narrative storytelling. There are not many romantic films that so realistically convey the interactions and developments of human relationships. The characters are flawed, but authentic, and their actions are rooted in their psychology, made clear through the multiple grand performances. Visually expressed through the many driving scenes, the comings and goings, the emotional changes, and the developments and declines of romantic attitudes is poignantly, melancholically captured by Litvak’s direction, with the responsibility of hurt feelings not blamed on the characters but understood through an equal and truthful representation of who they are. Relationships are complicated, and not many films show this quite as accurately as Goodbye, Again.
Relationships are complicated, and not many films show this quite as accurately as Goodbye, Again.