Finally, Sunday! (Vivement dimanche!) Review
Estate agent Julien Vercel (Jean-Louis Trintignant) comes under suspicion for the murder of Claude Massoulier, shot while hunting. He has the motive too: his wife Marie-Christine (Caroline Sihol) was Massoulier's mistress. However, his secretary Barbara (Fanny Ardant) is not so sure, and begins her own investigations...
From the start of his career, if he wasn't retelling the adventures of his autobiographical surrogate Antoine Doinel, François Truffaut returned time and again to film noir, often adapting novels by American crime writers. This was apparent from his second film, Shoot the Pianist, which drew upon a novel by David Goodis and became a riot of exuberant cinephile jokiness. The Bride Wore Black and Mississippi Mermaid were both based on novels by William Irish, and A Gorgeous Girl Like Me derives from a novel by Henry Farrell, which it plays for misfired broad farce. After The Woman Next Door, Truffaut was clearly in the mood for diversion, not to mention in search of a good role for his partner Fanny Ardant, and lighted upon a novel by Charles Williams, The Long Saturday Night. Adapted by Truffaut and his usual fellow scriptwriters Suzanne Schiffman and Jean Aurel, the result was Finally, Sunday! (Vivement dimanche!, released in the USA as Confidentially Yours), which while it takes itself seriously enough to pass muster as a crime thriller, doesn't take itself too seriously either. It's an affectionate homage to the genre and clearly something of an indulgence it would be hard to begrudge him. It proved to be Truffaut's last film, not intentionally. If he had lived, like the rest of his New Wave compatriots, into his seventies, eighties, or even nineties, he would no doubt have made many more films, and we would view Finally, Sunday! as an attractive, entertaining if minor work. But because it was his last film, that gives it a weight it can't really sustain.
Although Finally, Sunday! is set in the present day, Truffaut emphasises the noir style by shooting the film in black and white and using the hard lighting associated with the style in the 1940s. He had hired Nestor Almendros to shoot The Wild Child because he had been impressed by Almendros's monochrome work on Eric Rohmer's My Night at Maud's., and the partnership had been so congenial that Truffaut and Almendros made nine features together in all, of which Finally, Sunday! was the last. However, The Wild Child had been shot in 1969 and released in 1970, just as black and white filming was coming to an end in commercial cinema. Of course, a not insignificant number of black and white films have been made since 1970, but they have been exceptions to the colour norm, rather than being part of a tradition lasting from the dawn of cinema. By 1983, not only were television stations increasingly reluctant to show black and white, the rising medium of video put colour at a premium. Finally, Sunday! shows its age somewhat in that it was shot on actual black and white 35mm film stock. While that is still possible today, it's become a rare thing: most latterday black and white films have been shot on colour stock or, more recently, digitally, and converted to black and white in post-production. One of the reasons for this is that it is possible to produce a colour version for any markets which require one. That said, shooting, lighting and designing for black and white is something of a dying art, and Almendros was somewhat younger than most DPs who had had regular experience with it. Even in 1983, Almendros noted, film emulsions did not have the same characteristics as the black and white stocks of the studio era and laboratories were beginning to lose their expertise in dealing with monochrome. However, Almendros's work here is masterly and if nothing else Finally, Sunday! is a pleasure to look at.
Finally, Sunday! has a feeling of a reunion of old friends, though it's doubtful if Truffaut had any inkling it would be his final film. His longtime editor Martine Barraqué walks past at one point holding a baby, production designer Hilton McConnico (who designed the sets specifically in black and white) is the man who tries to pick up Barbara when she's posing as a prostitute, and several other members of the crew turn up in bit parts, with Truffaut's genuine secretary playing one in one scene. Jean-Louis Trintignant had not worked with Truffaut before, nor obviously since, but he fits in well here, and there is chemistry between him and Fanny Ardant, clearly having fun in a big role given to her by her partner behind the camera. Another sign of the times when the film was made was that the story could rely on the existence of a strong repertory circuit, specifically a cinema just happening to be showing Paths of Glory. That wasn't the case in London at the time, and is even less true three decades later. (As a minor trivia point, the same repertory circuit is also showing Andrzej Zulawski's then eight-year-old L'important c'est d'aimer, at least according to the newspaper Julien and Barbara consult – score one for Blu-ray resolution.)
Finally, Sunday is a pleasant diversion for the hour and fifty minutes it's on, but you have to wonder what Truffaut would have done next. However, he died on 21 October 1984 of a brain tumour, aged just fifty-two. His was a life led in cinema, with one feeding into and informing the other. While not all of his films are of the top flight – possibly the price paid for working regularly – his place in film history is secure.
Finally, Sunday! is the twelfth and last of Truffaut's films released by Artificial Eye on Blu-ray and DVD. A checkdisc of the former edition was supplied for review. The film was a PG in the cinema and also in the home, due to previous releases, and it maintains that certificate here, though due to some briefly bloody shots of corpses and some not-quite-mild language I suspect it might get a 12 were it resubmitted today – a certificate which did not exist in 1983 of course.
The Blu-ray is in the correct ratio of 1.66:1. Finally, Sunday! was shot, as mentioned above, on black and white 35mm stock, or rather stocks: Eastman Plus X for daytime scenes, Double X for night, for those who like to know these things. Black and white in high definition has a particular character, not always shared by latter-day monochrome films shot on colour stock or digitally, but it's certainly present here, with strong blacks, crisp whites and lots of greyscale in between. Contrast is especially vital to get right, and it looks fine here.
The soundtrack is the original mono, and is clear and well balanced. English subtitles are optionally available for both the feature and the commentary, and unlike the other Truffaut discs I've reviewed here, you can toggle between the two via your remote. You can only play the commentary by selecting it from the disc extras menu, though.
As with all but one of these Truffaut releases, the extras are carried over from the original French DVD releases by MK2 in 2002. They begin with a short introduction by Serge Toubiana (4:23) and he also moderates the commentary, which is with Jean-Louis Trintignant. This was recorded in 2000, and Trintignant, who turned seventy that year, describes himself as retired, though Patrice Chéreau had persuaded him out of retirement to play a dual role in Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train in 1998. Of course, much more recently, he costarred in Amour. Trintingnant had missed the New Wave due to his military service and had not worked with Truffaut before. He wrote him a letter in 1979 expressing his wish to work together, and four years later the present film is the result. He talks in some detail about how they worked together, though there occasional dead spots. In between whiles Toubiana points out some of the cameo appearances by crewmembers referred to above.
Finally, there is the theatrical trailer (1:22), which has an odd blue tint and captions appearing in yellow.