Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Le Bonheur (Agnes Varda, 1965)

The first thing I felt after watching Le Bonheur (Happiness) was an overwhelming sense of awe. How could this movie have been all but forgotten today? It's as good as the best Godard (A Woman is a Woman, in my estimation), a beautiful, emotionally resonant piece of French New Wave filmmaking. Then, I, of course, got angry. Agnes Varda, who, in the special features of the Criterion DVD looks like the nicest French grandma you could ever hope to meet, has been neglected by film history, and why? Because she's a woman? Because she was married to Jacques Demy? Well, nevermind why, because hopefully this Criterion box set's release will change that.

Francois is happily married to Therese, with two young children. All is fine (and dull) until he meets Emilie, a post office worker who connects his phone calls and takes him to get coffee. He falls in love with Emilie, but not to the detriment (in his mind) of his marriage to Therese. In fact, rather than falling out of love with either woman, or becoming secretive or surly, he is, as he says, more himself every day, becoming a better husband and lover at the same time. What a revolutionary vision of marriage, of non-monogamy! And then something changes, but not in the melodramatic way you'd expect.

The film is revolutionary in its portrait of marriage between two real equals. But Francois is an interesting character, and not nearly as progressive as he seems at first. On one hand, he believes in free love -- he's not guilty about having an affair, and even tells his wife about it in a completely different way than I've ever seen in a movie. It's really the most interesting portrait of "infidelity" I've ever seen. But on the other hand, Francois is a very typical chauvinist; when Therese tells him about a movie she wants to see, and asks if he prefers Brigitte Bardot or Jeanne Moreau, he says, "I prefer you." He wants it all! He deserves it all! He can have Bardot and Moreau, and Therese and Emilie!

The movie is visually stunning, with a host of motifs that really stand out: Brigitte Bardot (as a stand-in for female sexuality?), bright colors (blue & orange the most pronounced, especially in the opening sequence), flowers, and female hands (there are two stunning, parallel sequences of Therese's and Emilie's hands that are incredibly poignant in the context of the film). Varda, not only having written a beautiful, subtle script, directs it to absolute perfection. It was written & directed by a woman, but isn't necessarily feminine. It's just life.


Sorry for the absence; for some reason, Blogger had flagged this as a spam blog. Hrm.

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