Friday, January 01, 2010

The Endangered List (Case File #57)


Jean Seberg (Adriana)
Maurice Ronet (Rainier)
Pierre Brasseur (Husband)
Danielle Darrieux (Madame Fernande)
Jean-Pierre Kalfon (Chauffeur)
Michel Buades (Alejo)
Henry Czarniak (Truck driver)
Pierre Koulak (Bouncer)
Jackie Lombard (Rita)

Romain Gary

Written by
Romain Gary

Based on a short story by
Romain Gary

Produced by
Jacques Natteau

Cinematography by
Christian Matras

Music by
Kenton Coe

Edited by
Denise Charvein

Art Direction by
Jacques Brizzio

96 minutes
MPAA rating: X
A Regional Film (Universal Pictures) release

The complex psychological area of nymphomania is tackled by Romain Gary and daringly presented with his wife, Jean Seberg, as the subject in BIRDS IN PERU, a Regional Films release in color. In the concept, as writer of the screenplay from his own short story, Gary derives the title of BIRDS IN PERU from a particular stretch of beach on the Pacific Ocean where gulls, terns and other ocean birds, for reasons unexplained, die when they arrive there. This, too, is the fate decreed for Seberg when she arrives there with incurable nymphomania. Her husband, played by Pierre Brasseur, is extremely wealthy and has taken his wife to medical men in all parts of the world in search of a cure. There is a pact between him, his wife and his chauffeur (Jean Pierre Kalfon) that the latter will kill Seberg if she continues to stray. Maurice Ronet is one of the many lovers she becomes involved with as she travels the short stretch of relatively deserted beach.

Iowa-born Seberg’s acting career proves without a doubt that variety is the spice of life. She made her film debut in Otto Preminger’s celluloid production of George Barnard Shaw’s SAINT JOAN, portraying the martyred woman of God, and is now appearing in BIRDS IN PERU as a psychologically tormented nymphomaniac. Quipped the actress, “I guess you might say I’ve gone from saint to sinner.”

When writer Gary undertook the challenging task of directing his wife in his helming debut, he assumed the attitude that “the difficult is easy and the impossible takes a little while.” But he soon discovered that the most difficult aspect of directing success is the initial casting. “Once the actors are chosen, the die is cast and any subsequent failure stems from the original choice,” emphasized the director. “Fortunately, my choice couldn’t have been better. Maurice Ronet, Pierre Brasseur and Danielle Darrieux give brilliant performances, and Jean gives the best performance of her life. With a cast like that, all I can say is that nothing was impossible.”

Boxoffice review

Romain Gary, author-director, makes his first film from his short story about a nymphomaniac, a role portrait by Jean Seberg. The story opens on a desolate strip of beach in Peru, to which flocks of birds fly yearly to die. Seberg has come to this spot from a nearby carnival to spend the night with four drunken lovers. At dawn they leave her stretched on the sand, naked and remorseful. She wanders to a ramshackle bordello, whose lesbian madam offers her refuge. Still despondent over her insatiable lust, she tries to drown herself, but is rescued by an idealistic young poet, who raises the hope that he may save her from herself. Then she is found with him by her elderly husband and his virile chauffeur and she realizes that there is no escape from her life’s pattern. Christian Matra’s photography emphasizes the strangeness of this uninhibited French film with its unearthly bird strewn beaches, its symbolism and its preoccupation with sex and death. Seberg’s acting is unrealistic and the film as a whole is unbelievable. The color film work is technically acceptable. The film does not possess art house qualities nor does it have a strong enough sex story for grind exploitation houses. The Universal Film production is a Regional release.

[Boxoffice BookinGuide, September 16, 1968, p.10]

Radio Spot

They said she was untouchable, but beneath her icy core lay a desperate desire to love…and she would use any man to find it. You’ll meet that woman in BIRDS IN PERU, the motion picture that syndicated columnist Sheilah Graham says is “the farthest anyone has yet gone in frankness.” The theme of BIRDS IN PERU, a Regional Films release in color, is perhaps the most daring of the year. It is the story of a woman given over to love, helpless before desires she cannot understand or fulfill, hopelessly faithless to her husband…yet hoping, among her endless experiences, to find the essence, the purity of one love to burn away her shame. BIRDS IN PERU, filmed in far away places, brings together a brilliant international cast headed by Jean Seberg, Maurice Ronet, Pierre Brasseur and Danielle Darrieux. BIRDS IN PERU was written and directed by world famous Romain Gary with keen insight into the jaded lives of the International Set. This picture has been rated X. Persons under 16 will not be admitted.


Jamie Adams said...

any clue about how to get this film "Birds in Peru"?

Anonymous said...

So has anyone figured out why a major-studio release like this, a somewhat famous movie (for being the first one the MPAA rated X) could have so completely disappeared? Did Gary destroy all copies? Is there a legal problem? Why hasn't anyone ever been able to find even a trailer?

Anonymous said...

I want to see this movie! I never knew about it till now, but it sounds interesting! Surely someone has a copy floating around somewhere.

Unknown said...

As of Jan. 2017, it's on YouTube!