Le Bonheur (1965)
80 minutes, France
François (Jean-Claude Drouot), a young carpenter, shares an idyllic life with his loving, beautiful wife Thérèse (Claire Drouot). Together they have two amazingly cute children with whom they enjoy taking trips into nature. But even having abundant bonheur – happiness – in his marriage, doesn’t stop François from starting an affair with young Émilie (Marie-France Boyer) who he meets on a business trip. In the afternoon he makes love to her, and at night to his wife Thérèse. Experiencing a level of happiness he never felt before, François enjoys his life to the utmost.
When her second feature film Le Bonheur came out, Agnès Varda herself described the film as “a beautiful summer fruit with a worm inside.” Shot in a gorgeous colour pallet of yellow, green and blue – reminiscent of the work of painters such as van Gogh and Renoir – and bathing in sunlight, Le Bonheur proved to be one of Varda’s most provocative films. She casted Jean-Claude Drouot, who at that time was an acclaimed actor, with his real family – his wife and two children – giving the film an extra natural as well as tragic feeling.
Asli Ozgen-Tuncer completed her PhD at Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, and she currently teaches at Media Studies Department at University of Amsterdam. Her research interests lie in the intersection of politics of aesthetics, historiographies of media, and feminist interventions of the theory of history.
At Roffa Mon Amour, she talks about feminist activism and feminist filmmakers’ search for a new cinematic language, focussing on Agnès Varda and her film Le Bonheur (1965), as a feminist activist filmmaker who sought to experiment with non-patriarchal cinematic aesthetics.