Sundays and Cybèle – The Criterion Collection #728 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 28, 2014 by  


While Serge Bourguignon may not be a filmmaker whose name is mentioned often in French cinema, his one film “Sundays and Cybèle” is fantastic, beautiful yet heartbreaking and one of the France’s cinematic gems to be released during the early 1960’s.  A memorable drama that is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sundays and Cybèle – The Criterion Collection #728


DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, French Monaural with English Subtitles


RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2014

Directed by Serge Bourguignon

Based on the novel by Bernard Eschasseriaux

Scenario by Serge Bourguignon, Antoine Tudal

Cinematography by Henri Decae

Edited by Leonide Azar

Production Design by Bernard Evein

Costume Design by Marie-Claude Foquet, Jacques Heim


Hardy Kruger as Pierre

Nicole Courcel as Madeleine

Patricia Gozzi as Francoise/Cybele

Daniele Ivernel as Carlos

Andre Oumansky as Bernard

Anne0Marie Coffinet as Francoise II

In this provocative Academy Award winner from French director Serge Bourguignon, a psychologically damaged war veteran and a neglected child begin a startlingly intimate friendship—one that ultimately ignites the suspicion and anger of his friends and neighbors in suburban Paris. Bourguignon’s film makes thoughtful, humane drama out of potentially incendiary subject matter, and with the help of the sensitive cinematography of Henri Decaë and a delicate score by Maurice Jarre, Sundays and Cybèle becomes a stirring contemplation of an alliance between two troubled souls.


Back in the late ’50s, director Serge Bourguignon was known for his short films.

His 1959 short “Le sourire” would eventually win the Palme d’Or for “Best Short Film” at the Cannes Film Festival and would lead to his first feature film “Sundays and Cybele”.  A story based on the novel by Bernard Eschasseriaux.

The French film would be nominated for three Academy Awards and winning an Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film” in 1963.

And now “Sundays and Cybèle” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection in Sept. 2014.

“Sundays and Cybèle” would begin with a war-time pilot named Pierre (portrayed by Hardy Kruger) headed into a crash landing in Vietnam and his plane heading towards a little girl.

The film’s setting fastforwards to the present-time and we learn that Pierre is suffering from memory loss and has not been the same person before the accident.

Living together with his girlfriend, nurse Madeleine (portrayed by Nicole Courcel), she and their friends have been trying to get Pierre to remember his memories and so he spends a lot of time starring onto trees in hoping it would jog his memory.

Fastforward as Pierre is waiting at a train station and sees a father and a young girl looking for directions to an orphanage.  Immediately, Pierre sees how the girl is in tears and he wants to help her.

So, he follows her to the orphanage and watches as the father leaves her with the nuns.  He forgets to give her a bag and tries to put it through a mailbox but it falls off and Pierre picks it up.

The following day, he goes into the orphanage and tells the girl that he has to take her out of the orphanage for a day to meet with her father.

In truth, Pierre brings her to his home and tells her that he needs her to help him regain his memories and feels she can help him.

The girl who goes by the name of Francoise (as given to her by the nuns) tells him that she will help him, if she never leaves her.  She has lost her mother and her father and now has no one to care for her and does not want to be alone.

At first she asks Pierre if she can live with him because she doesn’t want to go back to the orphanage but he quickly tells her that the apartment is owned by his girlfriend, Madeleine.

Knowing that Madeleine is working on Sundays, she tells Pierre that she will go back to the orphanage but in order to help him, he must make a promise to take her out of the orphanage each Sunday and he will pretend to be his daughter.

And as the two spend time with each other, Pierre feels a connection with the girl and in many ways, she makes him feel like a child and he enjoys playing with her.  But Francoise is also a young girl who is mature for her age and understands that her family is gone and Pierre is the only person she has left in her life.  Both have a relationship based on innocence and enjoy their time together.

And as the two continue to meet on Sundays, Madeleine starts to wonder why Pierre is always missing and discovers that he is spending time with a young girl each Sunday and lies about it.

This leads to her and others to question the relationship that Pierre has with the girl and if there is some indecent going on between the two.


“Sundays and Cybèle – The Criterion Collection #728” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are nice and deep.  The film features a good layer of grain and the clarity of the film on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition.  I did not notice any damage to the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K film scanner from a new 35 mm fine-grain mater made from the original camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and jitter were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, flicker, grain and noise management.  Customs stamps printed into the original negative were also removed.”.


As for audio, “Sundays and Cybèle – The Criterion Collection #728” is presented in French LPCM 1.0. The monaural soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit froma  25 mm D/M/E magnetic track.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 3.”.

The film is presented with English subtitles.


“Sundays and Cybèle – The Criterion Collection #728” comes with the following special features:

  • Serge Bourguignon – (26:22) A 2014 interview with filmmaker Sergei Bourguignon.
  • Patricia Gozzi – (11:17) A 2014 interview with actress Patricia Gozzi (who plays the character of Francoise/Cybele).
  • Hardy Kruger – (23:03) A 2014 interview with Hardy Kruger (who plays the main character, Pierre).
  • Le Sourire – (22:19) A short film directed by Serge Bourguignon about a young Bhuddist Monk.  The short film won the Palme d’Or for best short film in 1960.  Introduction by Serge Bourguignon (6:59).
  • Trailer – (2:15) The original theatrical trailer for “Sundays and Cybèle”.


“Sundays and Cybèle – The Criterion Collection #728″comes with a six-page foldout featuring the essay “Innocent Love?” by Ginette Vincendeau.


Serge Bourguignon’s “Sundays and Cybèle” is a film about an innocent and pure relationship that an adult shares with a young girl.

Having suffered from amnesia during a war and having killed a young girl when his plane crashed into her, Pierre is deeply bothered of why his memory has not come back or how he truly is as a person.

That is until he meets the young Francoise.  A girl that has had a hard childhood as her parents left her and her grandmother is too old to take care of her, so she is left at an orphanage ran by nuns.

While one would think the relationship would be like a father and a daughter, instead, the relationship is more like two children enjoying their time together. As these two individuals find comfort in each other, because they live a life full of pain and not knowing where their life is headed.  Francoise with no family, Pierre with no memory of anything.  But all they do know is that they have each other and can depend on each other for comfort.

But unfortunately when word catches on that Pierre is having a relationship with a young girl, this causes problems for those who wonder if Pierre is a sick person.

The film is beautiful as the cinematography is wonderful, the way the film is staged is exquisite and the story is innocent yet tragic.

While the performance by Hardy Kruger is good, the film rests on the shoulders of young actress Patricia Gozzi.

One of the better actresses in France at that time, she showed tremendous potential in the 1961 film “Leon Morin, Priest”.  The role demanded for young Patricia Gozzi to give an emotional performance and having to hit her mark whenever emotion is needed.  Her emotions, her facial expressions are what make this film seem real.

The film manages hold up well over 50-years-later and it’s rather an unforgettable French film that will continue to resonate strongly for the cineaste for many decades to come.

As for the Blu-ray release, many have waited for the film to be released on video with the best picture quality and the Criterion Collection delivers with an HD release with fantastic picture quality.  The clarity is wonderful and no sign of dirty or problematic frames.  The film looks fantastic and the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no signs of hiss or any crackling.  You also get a few special features including 2014 interviews with filmmaker Serge Bourguignon, actor Hardy Kruger and actress Patricia Gozzi.

While Serge Bourguignon may not be a filmmaker whose name is mentioned often in French cinema, his one film “Sundays and Cybèle” is fantastic, beautiful yet heartbreaking and one of the France’s cinematic gems to be released during the early 1960’s.

A memorable drama that is highly recommended!

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