music friday
african-american directors series: sankofa (haile gerima, 1993)

film fatales #165: the smiling madame beudet (germaine dulac, 1923)

This is the twenty-eighth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2022-23", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 8th annual challenge, and my fourth time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", the second year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", and last year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22"). Week 28 is called "French Impressionism Week":

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film from the French Impressionism movement.

Another example of how the Challenge is such a good idea. I'm not sure I knew there was such a thing as a French Impressionism movement in film, and I had only seen one of the movies on the suggestions list. The Smiling Madame Beudet was an interesting example (and not quite "feature length" at only 42 minutes, but it's on the list). It is perhaps the most famous film from Germaine Dulac, whose career covered feminist writing, film theory, and many films both experimental and commercial. It's the story of an unhappy marriage, or rather, the story of the woman in that unhappy marriage.

The impressionism is smoothly integrated into the film. The wife's thoughts are presented on the screen, rather like the inner dialogue from a novel, and combined with the actual events we see, give us a deep feeling for her dissatisfactions. Dulac doesn't seem to be trying for an obscure touch ... she isn't trying to confuse her audience. But neither does she use the kinds of tricks that scream out "IMPRESSIONISM". She relies on her vision and the intelligence of her audience to make connections.

Germaine Dermoz gives an evocative performance as the title character, who, it should be noted, does not smile.


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