The Greatest films of all time: 59. Sundays and Cybele (1962) (France)


Hailed as a “Miracle Film” by Bosley Crowther, the New York Times film critic for 27 years, “Sundays and Cybele” (“Sundays in the town of Avray” per its French book and the film title) is a film adaptation of the same name novel by Bernard Eschasseriaux published in 1952. The film was directed by Serge Bourguignon who also collaborated with the author in writing the script, and introduced himself to the world of cinema with his first major feature and masterpiece. Although Bourguignon did not last more than 5 years with a few more feature films, mostly commercials, lastly “Two weeks in September” in 1967 with Brigitte Bardot, his “Sundays and Cybele” was enough to make him world known, winning best foreign film award at Oscar, Blue Ribbon Awards and the National Board of Review award.


Most importantly the film beat “Lolita” around a similar subject that was adapted from the novel of Vladimir Nabokov of 1955, by Stanley Kubrick in the same year of 1962. While Lolita was principally about a sexual obsessive perversion of a middle-aged literature professor with the 12 years old Lolita, “Sundays and Cybele” is about an innocent friendship between Cybele, a teenager of Lolita’s age and Pierre an amnestic, post-traumatic war stressed pilot in his 30’s. Cybele being dumped by his loveless father in an orphanage, as soon as meets Pierre, pretends him to be her father so to get out of the orphanage on Sundays. So the relationship while odd and unusual, it’s innocent and not sexual or perverted. It is an uncustomary fiction of two lonely and childish souls seeking support and friendship once a week. Pierre has his own sexual relationship with his nurse, Madeleine who finally out of jealousy notifies the police of Cybele being in danger, ending in shooting Pierre to death and the anguish of Cybele.

A Film beyond the French New Wave Cinema:

The new wave of cinema in Europe in late 50’s and 60’s was an experimental opportunity for the avant garde filmmakers such as Michelangelo Antonioni to bring more depth onto the silver screen. So that was a ripe time for Serge Bourguignon to make his first major feature after the success of his short film, “Le Sourire” in 1960 about the introspection and wonders of the nature of a Buddhist monk, that won him Palm d’or at the Cannes Film Festival. 

 Read the full text here: