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Love is No More Than the Touching of Two Skins: Goodbye Again (1961)

I’ll admit this – ever since my earliest days of blogging, as soon as I figured out what a “blogathon” is, I kind of wanted to take part in one… but, I guess I never really had the time or I didn’t come across a subject that appealed to me enough. Anyway, when I saw that Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema will be hosting a blogathon dedicated to no other than the iconic Ingrid Bergman, I kind of rushed to join in the fun.

I had no doubts as to which movie to write about; for some reason, I immediately thought of Goodbye Again (1961), a lesser known but even more intriguing Ingrid’s film. I had written about this one before; I wouldn’t call it a review but, I rambled about it a bit for Anthony Perkins’ birthday last year. However, it is Ingrid who we are honouring this time, and it made sense to watch the movie again and write about it from a slightly different angle. (Honestly, the last year’s review already makes me cringe a bit… you don’t really have to read it, y’know).

Goodbye Again was based upon a 1959 novel by Francoise Sagan, named Aimez-vous Brahms? (which is also the movie’s alternate title). In fact, I just got another one of her novels (Bonjour Tristesse) the other day, and I wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t seen this movie.

Anyway, let’s get into the review…

Goodbye Again was directed by the Ukrainian-born director Anatole Litvak, and, besides Ingrid Bergman, cast such stars as Anthony Perkins and Yves Montand. Ingrid plays Paula Tessier, a fourty year old (I’m stating her age because it plays quite an important role in the story) interior decorator who’s not-so-happily in a relationship with a business guy named Roger (Montand’s character) who occasionally likes to seduce young girls because his and Paula’s relationship is sort of “open”, and neither of them is interested in getting married. This kind of relationship might seem modern at first, but in reality, it just gives Roger more space for his philandering. Of course, even though their relationship is open and “free”, it wouldn’s seem “right” for Paula to have occasional lovers as Roger does… some freedom! as her witty maid proclaims. Indeed, if Paula had listened to her little maid all along, perhaps she would have made much better choices… anyway, things start to become interesting for Paula as she meets young Philip van der Besh (Perkins), son of one of her clients. Philip is a young man of twenty-five who seems to be working as a lawyer, although he doesn’t care much about his job and is far more concerned with the lack of romance in his life… such a romantic, you say; yes, he is, although he’s also a bit spoiled and sometimes, quite immature. I think you can’t exactly dislike Philip’s character, because he’s always both – charming and funny, but also a bit pushy and selfish in his relationship with Paula.

Because yes, these two do get into a relationship; at first Paula is only flattered by Philip’s attention, but as he keeps following her around (somewhat obsessively), she forms an attraction to him. Things between them culminate during one of Roger’s business trips, much to the approval of Paula’s maid, Gaby (seriously, besides Perkins’ quirky character, this girl is about the funniest part of the film). But there’s also this scene where they go together to a concert playing Brahms (hence the title, Aimez-vous Brahms?), namely his 3rd symphony. And that’s another cool thing about this film (sometimes maybe even better than the story) – its “technical” details. The music which accompanies the film (albeit I’m far from a music expert… lol), the gorgeous cinematography showing the scenery of Paris, and Ingrid’s costumes, designed by Dior (!); so you could say that everything was carefully thought out.

As one might expect from a type like Roger, he acts annoyed when Paula tells him about her “fling” with Philip; you see, Roger is often telling Paula about his flings with young girls (“Maisies” as he calls all of them) but the fact that she has found someone else bothers him. When Paula openly reminds him that she’s usually the one listening about his romantic adventures, he blurts out the film’s infamous line – “At least that’s normal!” Quite a sexist statement, but at least he’s being honest about his views… right? Actually, I feel like the only good part about Roger’s character is the fact that he’s not a complete hypocrite as he could have been; indeed, he’s quite open about going around with other girls, and he doesn’t hide what attitude he has… yeah, you can tell I’ve grown sort of a resentment towards his character, but I must confess that Montand plays this type of guy remarkably convincing.

Paula has her limits, of course; after this argument she puts an end to relationship with Roger and starts going out with Philip. But then she has to face another ugly obstacle: whenever they go somewhere, some people are going to sniff at the fact that she’s fifteen year older than him. Indeed, I don’t remember anyone laughing at Roger for having much younger mistresses, even though he’s the same age as Paula…

Still, people talking and society standards aren’t the only thing harnessing their relationship. The thing is, Philip might seem much better than Roger, but he’s still not perfect for Paula. Firstly, as I mentioned, he’s a bit immature and often acts overtly dramatic, and he can often be quite selfish and careless at times… firstly, he recklessly quits his job as soon as the two start going out, because it seems that he has accomplished his main purpose – to fulfill his romantic life. Secondly, he knows how to make about any situation about him: as for example on the occasion when some acquaintances act weird towards Paula because of the age difference. I’d say that she’s the one who ought to feel uncomfortable, but he dramatically accuses her of being embarrassed of being seen with him and assumes that she still loves Roger. The latter, unfortunately, seems to be somewhat true; and that’s another reason why the relationship between Philip and Paula wouldn’t work. You feel like she’s flattered by Philip’s smittenness with her, but their affair reminds more of a mother-son relationship than anything else. Why she still loves Roger remains a bit unclear, given how he’s been treating her in the past; and we can’t help but wonder if she is just looking for someone to love and understand her, and Roger just seems like the nearest choice after Philip. I think that is a big theme in this film: that of searching for love and especially, the desire to be loved. This could probably be applied to all three main characters, but it’s best personified in Paula, as she is the movie’s real heroine. The film begins and ends with her, after all. Her personality maybe isn’t as murky and unpredictable as Philip’s, but we can have trouble understanding her motives just as much. I personally see her as a successful, smart woman, but who is also lonely and, probably, unsure because of her age; searching for romance, but, even more than that, for compassion and understanding. Both are qualities that she can’t find in either of the two men, and in the end, as an audience, we aren’t really rooting for her to be with Roger or with Philip – but we are rooting for her all the same.

I’m going to end with a lighter note – because whilst being a melodrama, this movie contains several funny scenes – mostly delivered by Anthony Perkins, who really is the jester of the film. There is the entire movie at Youtube, so you can see it for yourself (one of my favorite scenes is the impersonation of a murder trial which starts around the 30th minute!):

* * *

Goodbye Again is one of Ingrid’s lesser known films, but also one I consider worth viewing for its interesting pairing of actors, its characters, and, finally, its beautiful imagery. When I watched it for the first time I was completely smitten, but I missed many little details; after the second viewing though, it actually made me think and I noticed some things that I’ve missed before. I’m actually curious to read the novel by Francoise Sagan now…

I’m quite excited to be a part of this blogathon! Thanks to Virginie for hosting it and giving me the opportunity to talk about this movie (and Ingrid) once again!

14 thoughts on “Love is No More Than the Touching of Two Skins: Goodbye Again (1961)

  1. Loved reading your great review and your interesting thoughts on some aspects of the film. I haven’t seen it yet and while I have read reviews of it before, I have to say your article particularly made me want to put it very high on my to-see list. Maybe I’ll watch it within the next days to honour Ingrid! Many thanks for your participation to my blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I must admit to not having seen this film and for a very stuffy reason. There is a 1933 movie called Goodbye Again (based on a play of that name) and it is a favourite comedy of mine. Every time I see Goodbye Again scheduled on television I immediately think it was “my movie” and then it turns out to be “that movie.” Now I realize I may be depriving myself of a new favourite movie. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I had no idea there was another movie of the same name. I looked the other one up and it seems like a completely different story; certainly helps the confusion. Although you might end up loving this one as well! Who knows?


  3. Welcome to the world of blogathons – you probably will want to spend a lot of time here 😉
    Goodbye Again is suc ha good, underrated movie, but as you said, we miss little details in te first viewing. I love this movie so much, the debates that arise about wanting love and being judged by others, and , expecially, Paula as a character we root for. Roger may be “honest”, Philip may be goofy, but Paula is the one who conquers our hearts.
    Le from Crítica Retrô

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you! Haha well to be honest, I’m already debating which one to participate in next 😄
    You’re so right in what you said about Paula – and that’s another thing I appreciate about this movie: the fact that we are seeing it from a not-so-often seen female character’s perspective; unlike, say, Casablanca, which has a somewhat similar storyline (I mean, both movies are great though). I actually came across your review of Goodbye Again before I wrote this one – I loved your thoughts on it!


    1. Honestly, their unusual pairing is one of the things that drew me to this movie in the first place. Overall I think they had a nice chemistry though!
      Thank you! I hope so too, as soon as I organize myself 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Every relationship has compromises…. Ingrid character wanted to know she was loved she wanted feel it live it be known for it. She was fearful of living her older years alone. Roger was what he was he wanted to know she was going to be there waiting on him I’m sure he loved her the best way he knew how. “It is what it is”
    Anthony character was an alcoholic emotionally in mature it would have never worked out. Just because you love some and they say they love you back it’s not the same thing most relationships. Lovely movie made sad at the end…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Caroline,
      Thank you for stopping by and for your insightful comment. It’s been a while since I last saw the film but, I agree that Ingrid (Paula) was afraid of loneliness and aging and wanted to feel loved… That’s probably why she considered settling for men who hardly treated her right. As for Roger, I assume he also wanted that sense of security/being able to always count on Paula, but he wasn’t willing to compromise and expected to have a sense of freedom (aka philandering) he wasn’t willing to let Paula have. He might have loved her in his way, but I don’t think that kind of one-sided love is enough to build a relationship. And he certainly should’ve treated her better if he did love her.
      I agree about Philip… He was quite immature and had a very twisted, overly romanticised idea of what love is. To me it seems like he kind of “used” Paula as a means to fulfill his romantic fantasies… Which is probably what happens when you’re young and inexperienced like he was, but poor Paula fell for it at first. And he clearly had issues with self-worth and self-respect which harmed the relationship. Still, I find his character to be way more sympathetic than Yves (Roger).
      Cheers and thanks for taking time to leave a comment! 🙂


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