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"La Souriante Madame Beudet" is mostly interesting and a classic
because of its unusual and daring theme, for its time. Back in the
'20's women rights weren't exactly regarded as the most important or
relevant things, to put it mildly. Women were often oppressed and
restrained in their marriage, to mainly only household chores, as is
shown in this movie about a woman who is trapped in a loveless
Of course there is not much to the story, it's just purely about its theme. The movie follows the life of the husband and wife over a couple of days, in which she gets humiliated and has to do humiliating chores for her husband. She starts thinking about taking revenge but the intelligent woman is soon stricken with remorse. The movie shows the position of the woman in everyday life and it of course does so by exaggerating things to make its point. Normally we only know French movies for its perfect and romantic love stories. This is a whole different piece of cake.
The movie is made in a style-full fashion, which makes the movie really interesting to watch, even for todays standards. The movie has some interesting camera positions, such as a couple of over-shoulder shots. But also the storytelling is interesting and style-full, such as in the sequences were the husband is faking emotions and in the background the mirror opens with a couple of hand-puppets playing the exact same scene, with the words 'all theater' appearing. It makes the imaginative Germaine Dulac directing also one of the highlights of the movie.
Alexandre Arquillière is brilliantly repulsive as the husband and Germaine Dermoz is great as the obviously more intelligent wife. There are a couple of more characters but the movie does a good job at concentrating mostly purely on the two main character were after all the movie and its plot is all about of course.
In todays perspective, the movie is both interesting and beautiful to watch.
I studied Women and Film with author, Dr. Sandy Flitterman-Lewis at Rutgers University and this is one of the many films that we watched in the viewing. Germaine Dulac provided us a glimpse into the life of women in France during Pre-World War II era and Post World War I world. Paris was a city who loved the arts at the time and was thriving with literary salons and American expatriates as well. Germaine Dulac never captured as much attention but she should have been on league with her male counterparts like Jean Epstein and others. Sadly, the war and the depression may have ended her career like so many others. We can only imagine what might have been if Germaine Dulac had been given the same advantages that her male counterparts received during that time. But she was one of the lucky ones to get the experienced to direct such films like this that are controversial and eye opening as well. Language is not necessary since sound didn't come until the 1930s and Germaine's career went elsewhere.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'La souriante Madame Beudet' narrates, with great economy and visual
inventiveness, two days in the life of an early-XXth century Madame
Bovary. The acting here can be related to expressionism, notably for
Monsieur Beudet who recalls the freaky Doctor Caligari in more ways
The sharpness of the narration, deserved by the minimal plot, allows the director to focus on the important issues - namely routine, small-town bourgeois life and dreams.
The use of objects is here both highly symbolic and narrative, as the way characters interact with them tend to define the characters and emphasize on their differences - eg.: the flower pot's position on the marble table embodies on its own the wish for either order and its counterpart the routine, or the will to escape and disrupt the way things are.
Irony is here too - and used with appropriateness to serve the plot in a somewhat cruel way. The title itself, you would have understood, is fairly ironic.
All in all, 'La souriante Madame Beudet' is an impressive, highly enjoyable poem in motion - the opening scene displaying sun shades on the sea and then the Claude Debussy score is pure magic, both cinematic impressionism and visual example of what V. Woolf called 'stream of consciousness'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Literally all I knew about this French short silent film is that it appeared in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I would never have known about it otherwise, I hoped it would be worthwhile. Basically Madame Beudet (Germaine Dermoz) is an intelligent woman, she lives a quiet mundane life, the most exciting thing that ever happens is receiving the mail, and she is trapped in a loveless marriage. Her husband Monsieur Beudet (Alexandre Arquillière) frequently plays stupid practical jokes on her, one of the most frequent being to have an empty revolver and threatening to shoot himself. One day, while her husband is away, following an argument for refusing to join him to a night at the opera, Madame Beudet secretly places bullets into the gun, hoping that when he plays the same practical joke again he will accidentally kill himself. However Madame Beudet is filled with guilt and has a sleepless night, she tries to retrieve the gun and remove the bullets, but the next morning her husband already has the gun in his hand. Monsieur Beudet thinks the gun chambers are empty as usual, and this time he aims the gun at her and fires, the bullet misses her, he thinks she was trying to commit suicide, he embraces Madame Beudet, saying "How could I live without you?". Also starring Jean d'Yd as Monsieur Labas, Madeleine Guitty as Madame Labas and Raoul Paoli as Le Champion de Tennis. It is a somewhat forgotten film, hence not many critical reviews, it is a simple story of a woman who has become tired of her husband's foolish antics, it is considered as one of the earliest "feminist" films, it is interesting enough that it probably should be seen by more who appreciate early cinema, a watchable impressionist silent film. Good!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"La Souriante Madame Beudet" is another remarkable film directed by
Damen Dulac, one of the most outstanding avant-garde French directors
of the time and the subject of some previous reviews of her principal
silent films by this German Count in his modern diary some months ago.
This one is a film that has all of the characteristics of her other
films insofar as their likeness of cinema innovations and the display
of strong, independent and decisive female characters.
The film depicts the story of Madame Beudet, a modern frenchified woman who likes to play at the piano longhaired composers' oeuvres ( Debussy ), read novels ( Flaubert, probably ) and modern magazines. She is married with a textile businessman. He is a rude and ordinary man who absolutely bores his wife because he has different cultural interests than her, like going to the theater to watch "Faust" ( obviously Madame Beudet as a perfect French chauvinist doesn't like that German play ).
When Monsieur Beudet is fed up with the differences between them, he makes a fake attempts to commit suicide in front of her with a revolver that is not loaded But one day, his wife places bullets in the barrel...
The most remarkable aspect of this film it is the will that Madame Beudet displays to put an end to an unhappy marriage. She is an intelligent, cultivated person that can't stand such bored life. She rebels against marriage's conventions, affirms the right to live her own life, to claim a happy life via an inward rebellion that only has success in her dreams ( displayed in the film with trick and special effects ). So the chance to get her freedom thanks to her husband's continuous fake suicide attempts seems to be the perfect excuse for her to make her dreams come true.
But in spite of her desires and plots against her husband, at the end Madame Beudet will succumb to remorse. Even with those inner claims of independence, she accepts her particular condemnation as shown in the last sequence of the film walking about the streets with her husband, crestfallen.
Bu in spite or thanks to such an ending, Damen Dulac achieve her inward intentions displayed in this film: the right to be a nonconformist, independent and happy human ( woman ) being.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must check if their musket is, sure enough, not loaded.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien
This film is only useful to those studying the French impressionistic
of film making or the issues surrounding women early this century. As a
it is throughly uninspiring.
I saw it in film class and it demonstrated what I had been learning about
but I would not recommend it to anyone who does not have an academic
interest of some sort.
Its plot is simply recounts a few days in the life of a repressed French housewife. Its main focus is how Madame Beudet views her life and her histrionic husband. As you might have guessed the title is meant to be sarcastic.
The film with English subtitles is currently on YouTube:
This is the 2005 Arte version, which appears to be the most commonly available. Soundtrack by Manfred Knaak, performed by the Kontraste ensemble, 38 minute runtime. IMDb lists the film as 54 minutes long; I'm curious if this is a longer version of the film or just a slower film speed.
As for my opinion of the film itself, I did not find it very engaging or entertaining. Much of my impression of silent films is influenced by the soundtrack and I found this small orchestral score to be average at best. I appreciate the historic value of the film as (one of?) the first woman- centered film(s) and it was technically well-shot.
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