So I bet that you are getting fed up with me loving on Agnes Varda. If you have been following my French New Wave series, then you know that I have ragged on such amazing directors as Truffaut and Godard for some less than stellar films. You are probably muttering to yourself when you read my Varda posts that I will give her a pass for everything because she is an icky woman (Eww). But this my friends is not true. I am here to tell you today that I do not like everything Ms. Agnes Varda has ever done. Just like every other filmmaker I adore (and I adore Ms. Varda along with Mr. Truffaut and Mr. Godard) there are some missteps in their oeuvre. Le Bonheur is definitely one of those missteps.
Le Bonheur looks stunning. The cinematography captures this forested part of France so well I just want to hop on the plane and go there right now. However the cinematography that creates a sense of playfulness does not translate well to the story being told. It is basically about a man who loves his life with his wife and children and small job at a small carpentry store. But although he seems to be happy, he decides to have an affair with a woman he meets at the post office. He wants to be happy with both women in his life. He tells his wife and she seems to have accepted it until she is found the river dead. The woman that he was having an affair with now becomes the wife and she takes over everything the dead woman was doing without any hiccup whatsoever.
Again if you have been reading me for a little while here, you will probably guess my big problem with this film. For such a feminist director, Varda definitely goes back on her assertions that she made in her previous films both documentary and fiction with this film. I did not have a problem with him having an affair and wanting them to be able to live happily together. Some people are just wired like that and he seemed to be coming from a genuine place, but I had a HUGE problem with his wife dying and the other woman just taking over like those were her kids all along. Nobody is sad about the dead wife, nobody questions the place of the woman in the children’s life, and nobody doubts the husband’s sanity. There is no tension, no drama and nothing to really latch onto. Varda seems to say that a wife is a wife is a wife and every woman is interchangeable. It is frustrating to hear this from her.
The other problem I had with this film is the performances. Both the wife and the other woman are wet blankets. The wife has some interesting scenes where she is working out a problem she is having with a dress, but she just sort of lies there and takes it in more ways than one. The same goes with the other woman. You could tell that each person in this film had little to no acting experience something that is not obvious in other Varda films. If the cinematography were not breathtaking in places, I would have shut this film off about fifteen minutes in. I was so incredibly bored by their daily routines. I actually tend to like to see the daily comings and goings of a character, but only if it adds to their character psychology in some way. The most famous example of this is of course Akerman’s magnum opus, Jeanne Dielman. But these depictions did nothing but add surface details that did not seem to matter.
I give you one Varda. Do not disappoint me ever again. This is your only warning… I’m just joking you will always be super cool to me!