World Cinema Series : Le Bonheur / Happiness (TBA)
||Agnés Varda’s third feature film, Le Bonheur, examines the viability of monogamy in the age of free love and the search for happiness in a time of total unrest. Visually stunning, her first colour film, denoting a strong interest in colour, shows every image bathed in brilliant light and colour combinations that, along with Mozart’s music on the soundtrack, depicts a stylized representation of marriage.
||10 March 2009 (Tuesday), 7.30pm
||National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
93 Stamford Road
Free admission but members only -- flash your membership card to go in. You may bring up to 2 guests if you hold a SFS Reel membership card. Non-members may sign up online or at the door -- we will issue membership on the spot.
Tickets for the public: $8 / $6.40 concession.
Counter Sales: Stamford Visitor Services Counter: 10am – 7.30pm;
Canning Visitor Services Counter: 10am – 5pm.
Online Booking: www.nationalmuseum.sg (click on Online Booking tab at the bottom of the webpage).
Ticketing Information: 6332 3659.
General Enquiries: 6332 5642.
Patrons are advised that a valid identity pass is required for all screenings.
Director: Agnés Varda
1965 / France / 85min / 35 mm / Ratings to be advised
Agnés Varda’s third feature film, Le Bonheur, examines the viability of monogamy in the age of free love and the search for happiness in a time of total unrest. Visually stunning, her first colour film, denoting a strong interest in colour, shows every image bathed in brilliant light and colour combinations that, along with Mozart’s music on the soundtrack, depicts a stylized representation of marriage. Of the film, Varda has said, “I tried, with a very simple subject, to do Impressionist painting”. Varda’s deep affection for each of her characters even as they make terrible choices that bring them to eventual doom makes a statement about sexual politics and the fleeting nature of human affection that feels modern even though is was made forty-three years ago.
Francois and Therese are a young, happily married couple with two charming, obedient children (played by real life family Jean-Claude and Claire Drouot and their two children). He works as a craftsman in his uncle’s artisan furniture shop, she is a dress-maker tailoring to brides-to-be. As in their work so is their relationship, she is doting and constantly seeking affirmation of his love for her and he, driven by passion. After a chance encounter with Therese (Marie-France Boyer), a younger woman who bears a striking resemblance to his wife, falls in love with her and begins an affair. He rationalizes to both women that the situation is “happiness by addition” pointing out that by having a lover on the side makes him a better husband to his wife nor is he a terrible partner to his mistress because she is a modern woman allowed to remain free from the shackles of marital expectations.
Varda’s background as a painter and sense of dark, whimsical humour give Le Bonheur a demented fairytale quality that transcends the bleak narcissism that marked some of the more revered works of the French New Wave movement.
Biography of Agnès Varda
Agnès Varda has been called the "Grandmother of the New Wave," a well-meaning if curious tribute for a woman who directed her first feature film at the age of 26. Born in Brussels to a French father and Greek mother, Varda studied literature and psychology at the Sorbonne, and art history at the École du Louvre. She'd originally wanted to be a museum curator, but a night-school course in photography changed her mind. Rapidly establishing herself as a top-rank still photographer, Varda became the official cameraperson for the Theatre Festival of Avignon and the Theatre National Populaire, and then pursued a career as a photojournalist.
Encouraged by filmmaker Alain Resnais, Varda made her movie directorial bow in 1955 with La Pointe Courte. She based the film on a William Faulkner short story, to which she was attracted because of its parallel plotlines (a recurring device in her later films). That same year, she accompanied another future New Wave director, Chris Marker, to China as visual advisor for Marker's Dimanche a Pekin, then concentrated on writing and directing experimental short subjects for the next five years. Varda's international reputation was secured with her 1961 feature Cleo de 5 a 7, which related in "real time" the anguish of a pop singer awaiting the results of her cancer tests. Her next film, and her first in color, was Le Bonheur (1965), a pioneering feminist manifesto wherein a misguided protagonist convinces himself that he can live copacetically with both his wife and his mistress.
Many of Varda's subsequent productions were heavily influenced by her political views. While visiting America with her director-husband Jacques Demy in 1968, she directed two tract-like short subjects, one of which -- Black Panthers (1969) -- was a paean to activist Huey Newton. Her 1970 production Nausicaa, a TV documentary about Greeks living in France, was so politically volatile that (according to Varda) it was banned outright by Greece's military government. Seldom motivated by commercial considerations (though she was willing to dash off two short subjects on behalf of the French National Tourist Office), Varda continued experimenting with new forms into the '70s; her German documentary Daguerreotypes (1974) was comprised of 4000 still photos (an extension of Varda's fondness for "personifying" inanimate objects), while Response de Femmes (1975) was lensed in 8mm. In 1977, she formed her own production company, Ciné-Tamaris. Its first effort was One Sings, the Other Doesn't, a celebration of "the happiness of being a woman" that proved to be a worldwide success. Varda would not make another theatrical film until the highly acclaimed 1985 docudrama Vagabond, a bleak, powerful portrait of an ill-fated young drifter (played by Sandrine Bonnaire, who won a César for her performance).
Exempting the cine-tracts and documentaries made following this important film, the next significant film Varda made was The Gleaners and I (2000), an intriguing documentary about gleaners, both ancient and modern, and their current status in French society. Awarded the Melies Prize for Best French Film of 2000 by the French Union of French Critics, The Gleaners and I seems, at first, a continued effort to bridge the gap between feature film and documentary. But it may be more specifically seen to mark a return by Varda to the documentary format of her early years in the New Wave; in fact, Varda herself relished the idea of making this film as a way to get back to the early short films and to film herself – in other words, getting involved as a film maker.
Varda’s latest film, The Beaches of Agnès, premiered at the 65th Venice International Film Festival in 2008.