Goodbye Again, 1961

There are people who, out of self-image, insecurity, or naive delusion that they can change another person, find themselves in doomed relationships. In Anatole Litvak’s Goodbye Again, Paula (the intoxicating Ingrid Bergman), a successful, middle-aged interior decorator, has been trapped in a dead-end relationship with Roger (Yves Montand), a philandering, transportation businessman. Commissioned to redecorate the Paris apartment of a wealthy American widow, she meets the pensive and melancholy Philip (Anthony Perkins), the widow’s aimless son, who is immediately attracted to her. Perhaps as a novelty of having a young admirer, or plagued by the evidence of Roger’s infidelities, she entertains Philip’s persistent advances. He drives her around town (revealing his romantic history and philosophy in the process). They have lunch in an outdoor restaurant. They attend a Brahms Symphony (which, uncoincidentally, is Symphony No. 3). When Roger goes away on an extended business trip, the separation draws Paula to Philip, and they become involved. However, their brief affair is threatened, as Philip’s increasing dependency on Paula, and her self-conscious guilt over having a young lover, become overwhelming. Perkins shows exceptional depth as the lost and vulnerable Philip. Note the subtly wonderful scene where a shattered Philip wanders the streets. Goodbye Again is a poignant, honest, and bittersweet film about the tragedy of unrequited love and impossible relationships.

Litvak uses the recurrent theme of circles to convey multiple meanings of the story (as in François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim). The film begins and ends with the same episode. There are several scenes where Philip drives around Paris aimlessly to pass the time (This is also thematically revealed through Philip’s indecisiveness and inability to find work or a cause that he can be passionate about). The film’s denouement culminates with Paula calling down to Philip over a spiral staircase. The selection of Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 is appropriately suited for the story of a love triangle, having a cyclical melodic pattern. Moreover, variations of the music are used as a leitmotif throughout the film (including a haunting blues version sung by Diahann Carroll), reflecting the atmosphere of the situation. The effect is one of entrapment and lost direction – a sense that the lives of these characters are going nowhere – that their relationships, are, in fact, inevitably doomed.

© Acquarello 1998. All rights reserved.