For Reel

Le Bonheur (1965)
July 18, 2012, 2:01 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Agnès Varda

The opening credits of Agnès Varda’s Le Bonheur present an idyllic field of wild sunflowers accompanied by Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. This anticipates much of what follows – being Varda’s first film in color, she experiments liberally with various hues, often filling her frames so pleasantly with greens and yellows that her images resemble a fashion advertisement. It comes as little surprise to learn that something darker lurks underneath the delicate surface. Despite the beauty of the images, the credits are edited aggressively, cutting frequently to closeups of the flowers with no real rhythm or consistency. Later in the picture, when François arrives at the apartment of Émilie (with whom he is having an affair), Varda uses the same cutting to suggest the violence of the action, the devastation that he is wrecking on his loyal wife, Thérèse. Varda’s third feature is a masterfully bleak examination of not only relationships, but of what Varda suggests to be the selfish act of pursuing happiness. When François approaches his wife with the news of his affair, he assumes that she will be nonplussed to learn of what he would classify as his progressive sexuality. In doing so, he reveals how little he understands about his wife – to him, she is an accessory that brings him joy and little else. On one hand, it is completely admirable that a man like François knows exactly what it takes to make him happy. On the other, Varda demonstrates just how much a perverted quest for self-satisfaction can blind one to another’s misery.

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