With Le Bonheur Agnès Varda made a delightfully ambiguous film on marital fidelity – a subject that has fascinated filmmakers from Bergman to Woody, Godard to Truffaut, Antionioni to Chabrol, Kubrick to Linklater, etc. She also made a dramatic break, stylistically, from her first two features, viz. La Pointe Courte and Cléo from 5 to 7, replacing the here-and-now realism in grainy B/W with a dazzling, dream-like and synthetic vision in saturated colours. In an interesting choice, Varda cast real-life couple (Jean-Claude and Claire Drouot) and their kids, as a happy suburban family comprising of François, a diligent carpenter; his beautiful, angelic wife Thérèse, who operates out of their cramped little home as a dressmaker; and their two adorable kids. Right from the idyllic picnic scene that the film starts with (picnics, in fact, act as a recurrent motif), along with the displays of love and casual lovemaking that they so seamlessly indulge in, their family seemed straight out of an old-world’s pet version of a happy and virtuous marriage. Things, however, take a different turn when François starts a heady extra-marital affair with Émilie (Marie-France Boyer), an attractive, independent-minded postal worker. To ironically complicate this further, when François informs Thérèse about Émilie, the wife, instead of flying off her handle, accepts it with unsettling placidity – that, along with the sunny, playful and enchanting visuals filled with a riot of colours and vibrant imagery, made the tragedy that follows and the circle back to an eerie normalcy thereafter, that much more disconcerting. This disarmingly sensual and deceptively pessimistic film can therefore be taken as either boldly radical or deftly conservative, and this paradoxical contradiction made it all the more memorable.
Director: Agnes Varda
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Marital Drama