Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Le Bonheur

While I didn't enjoy Le Bonheur as much as Cleo From 5 to 7 or some of the other films we've seen in class, there were definitely enough interesting elements to the film that made it a worthwhile viewing. I know that some of the new wave directors were influenced by Camus' writing, and I couldn't help but wondering if there were some elements of the protagonist in "The Stranger" that Varda gave to the male lead in Le Bonheur. He didn't seem to be too broken up by the death of his wife, much like the character in The Stranger who was unmoved after the death of his mother. Likewise, he didn't seem to show any emotion on the opposite side of the spectrum as well. He never looked to be joyful or content, even after having sex, with two different women no less. The only time he registered much emotion was in the scene when he is sitting with his family after the wife's funeral. But even then, it doesn't seem so much like sorrow as it does a kind of dull shock, as if he was lamenting the break up of his stable routine more than anything else. Which is why it seems it is with relative ease that Émilie steps in to fill the void left by Therese. It seems kind of odd, both on François and Émilie's part, that they would both be willing to jump into a relationship after the sudden death of Therese.
We see an equalization of the gaze in Le Bonheur. In only one film we've seen so far has the male been the object of the female gaze, and only then it was briefly, when Jean Seberg looked at Jean-Paul Belmondo through her rolled up poster in Breathless. Most likely due to the fact that Varda is the lone female in what is essentially a boy's club, we see the gaze returned to the male just as often as it is given. We see François looking with desire at Émilie at the post office when he first meets her. At their first meeting, the gaze isn't returned to François, but in a later scene when the two of them are in a café having a drink, it is evident that there is an intense attraction between the two of them. Through uses of the close up, Varda makes it clear that Émilie is deriving just as much pleasure looking at François as he is as at her.
One element of the film I rather enjoyed was the use of color. I don't know if Varda's choice of colors was motivated by any kind of symbolism, but the color palates were very pleasing to the eye. The colors of the clothing that the actors wore seemed to mimic the backgrounds in the outdoor scenes and correspond to the natural color palates found in the different seasons.
I loved the editing in the beginning sequence, when it showed Fraçois and his family walking, intercut with a close up on the face of the sunflower. It seemed that the sunflower was serving as a stand-in for Émilie, a lone outsider looking at a family. Flowers are a recurring motif throughout the film as well. Flowers show up in vases in the apartments where François and his family live, and also in Émilie's apartment. This may be a stretch, but Varda could've used the flowers as a symbol of the transitive beauty and fragility of romantic relationships.

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