Rotterdam 2023 Review: VOYAGES EN ITALIE, A Non-Trippy Trip

Sophie Letourneur's newest film is a mundane look at how NOT to have fun during a trip.

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
Rotterdam 2023 Review: VOYAGES EN ITALIE, A Non-Trippy Trip
The first thing which comes to mind to old film fans when they hear a title like Voyages en Italie will be: "Ah, the 1954 Rossellini film with Ingrid Bergman" and they'd be wrong. That film has many names but the closest to this one is Voyage en Italie (note the missing "s"). Voyages en Italie is the new film by Sophie Letourneur, a dryly comical relationship drama which had its world première at the International Film Festival Rotterdam last weekend.

In Voyages en Italie we follow Sophie (played by Sophie Letourneur herself) and Jean-Philippe (Philippe Katerine), a French couple. As they are fifty-ish, have stressful jobs and a young son to care for, they are slightly washed out and, according to Sophie, very much in need of a kid-less holiday. Jean-Philippe is less convinced. "If there is something to mend, you need to mend it in your daily business, not by taking a holiday, or you'll just return afterwards to the same problems..." is his credo.

Sophie wins though, so the couple plans a short trip, just a few days for themselves, and then a third of the film is spent on bickering about where to go. Observant readers of the title will know where they end up. But of course, is a holiday really a holiday if you take yourselves with you? Mismatched biochemistry, the inconveniences of travel, worrying if the kid is all-right with his army of babysitters... And while the South of Italy is stunningly beautiful (most of the "voyages" take place on and around the island of Sicily), it is also very full of tourists and unimpressed Italians. Sophie and Jean-Philippe just trade daily stress for different stress, and end up endlessly digging up old dirt. Rossellini's film is even mentioned by Jean-Philippe, but before a discourse on classic cinema takes place Sophie shoots him down with "You just like Ingrid Bergman a lot".

None of this is exactly new but Sophie Letourneur and Philippe Katerine are very convincing as the couple, and Letourneur as a director doesn't shy away from daft or uncomely details. The "disasters" happening in the film are not of the convoluted or slapstick kind, but show how even the tiniest hurdles can sour your pleasure. Her take on the couple is one of dry observation, both harsh and sympathetic.

That doesn't mean it is a delight to watch these people though. After a while you get the point and start to get fed up with them. It's nice that you see Sophie and Jean-Philippe manage to wring discomfort from beauty, and comfort from the ordinary, but especially when they start reminiscing about past fights you get to the point where enough is enough.

Voyages en Italie is definitely not a bad film, but its message is pretty mundane. As a drama, there's not that much drama, and as a comedy, it's not so funny. It's a good observation though, if at over 90 minutes a rather long one. Still, I do need to visit a few places in Italy by the looks of things, just hopefully not the way Sophie and Jean-Philippe do it...

The public in Rotterdam was apparently also leaning towards the "definitely not bad" opinion, granting the film an audience rating of 3.5 out of 5. "Non male!", as Italians would say.

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