Le Voyage En Douce is a French film directed by Michel Deville (Dossier 51). Lucy (Geraldine Chapman) drops in on Helene (Dominique Sanda) to share with her the bad vibes in her marriage. The two women, who were friends, as teenagers, have a common past, which they have never explored together. Helene, a writer of children's books, leaves her two children and husband behind and takes Lucy along to the countryside in search of a summer house.
The film, like City of Women, is about our ideas of women. Deville asked 15 French writers of both sexes to come up with anecdotes on feminine fantasies, fears and foibles. As Helene (highly controlled and cerebral) and Lucy (flighty and emotional) look at houses, they spin out stories both imagined and real. The tales revolve around erotic encounters with men and women, family and strangers. In one vivid scene, Helene coaches a young waiter who brings them breakfast in their room in the ways to please a woman with a kiss. Lucy plays the willing subject. Throughout their escapades, the two women nimbly dance around a sexual encounter with each other.
Dominique Sanda is exquisitely sensual in her aloof beauty, and Geraldine Chaplin has never performed better. Le Voyage En Douce makes voyeurs of us all and leaves the impression that for many the mind is the most erogenous zone. In an ironic finale, Lucy returns happily with her husband while Helen is restless back within the confines of her family. She has seen an aggressive sexual side of herself and she doesn't quite know how to handle it.
The film lingers in the mind long after its conclusion, and our friend the novelist Donald Barthelme has the answer: "Art's resolute refusal to explain itself translates into a refusal to explain women. They are, for a moment, surrounded by a blessed silence."