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Critics reviews
Le bonheur
Agnès Varda France, 1965
Varda never lets Le bonheur devolve into a search for easy answers. Nor is she presenting “all sides” and leaving it up to viewers to untangle their own prejudices in the film’s wake. For every bit of deck-stacking… we run smack into all those massed characteristics of her film’s presentation that signal the complete opposite. I’ve seen many things in multiple viewings of the film. If not much in form, in argument, Le bonheur is all ands, ifs, buts, and bys.
September 23, 2016
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Neither lecturing [François] nor diminishing [Thérèse], Varda lets her camera do the telling. It’s not for nothing that Émilie introduces her apartment in a following shot that lingers on the Vertigo spiral in her hairdo. In its interrogation of the characters’ ostensible happiness, Le Bonheur records ironies and exposes cliché. But it leaves moral accounting to the audience.
April 24, 2014
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The first thing about “Le Bonheur” is its riot of color… a painterly mix that is more reminiscent of the cosmic intimacy of Bonnard’s paintings than of the Impressionist works that Varda references throughout the film. And for Varda, the charms of Impressionism are raw material that she subjects to analysis and criticism—it’s a film in which emotional life and sensual delight are seen through the prism of sociology, psychology, and philosophical reflection.
June 09, 2010
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The power of Varda’s film is that it remains startling even in our savvy era, leaving us as uncertain and suspicious of its intentions as its first audiences must have been… Le Bonheur may be numbered among the many precursors to radical works such as Blue Velvet and Fat Girl, but Varda’s film is moving in ways that a Lynch or Breillat could never be.
January 22, 2008
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More than Le bonheur’s feminist politics and the fact that they were slightly ahead of their time, it is on the level of form that the film is so unsettling and calls up so many contradictory interpretations. One need only look at the opening and closing scenes to understand the complexity of Varda’s strategy.
January 21, 2008
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Even with the landscape bathed in warm hues and verdant fields on a summer day, accompanied by the lushness of a textured Mozart adagio, clad with airy wispiness of draped muslin… the association of Le Bonheur as both a prefiguration and corollary to the somber and oppressive bleakness of Vagabond – a film Agnès Varda would make twenty years later – nevertheless, seems inescapable.
January 13, 2006
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The film is essentially a deftly sustained cognitive dissonance experiment. The synthetic “warmth” of the images, counter-posed against the “coldness” of the psychological approach. Each draws a special charge from the other. There has never been a verfremdungseffekt quite like this one. Brecht must have triple-axelled in his grave.
April 22, 2004
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A beautiful and disturbing 1965 feature by Agnes Varda about family happiness, full of lingering and creepy ambiguities… Provocative and lovely to look at, this is one of Varda’s best and most interesting features (along with Cleo From 5 to 7 and Vagabond).
December 01, 1990
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