Friday, September 21, 2012

Bed and Board

Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut, Claude de Givray, and Bernard Revon, Domicile Conjugal (Bed and Board) is the story of Antoine Doinel’s marriage to Christine Darbon as he struggles with his new life as a married man along with becoming a father. The film is the fourth part of the Antoine Doinel series as it explores the world of adulthood and marriage as Jean-Pierre Leaud reprises his famed character for the fourth time while Claude Jade reprises her role as Antoine’s wife Christine. Also starring Daniel Ceccaldi, Claire Duhamel, Hiroko Berghauer, and Daniel Boulanger. Domicile Conjugal is a witty film from Francois Truffaut.

Antoine and Christine Doinel are living a comfortable married life as they deal with their new marriage. While they occasionally have dinner with Christine’s parents (Daniel Ceccaldi and Claire Duhamel), the two are wondering what to do next in their life. While Antoine is still struggling to find steady work where he eventually gets a job for an American-based corporate office. He and Christine desire to start a family where Christine eventually becomes pregnant with their first child. After the birth of their son Alphonse, things get strange between the two as Antoine finds himself attracted to a young Japanese woman named Kyoko (Hiroko Berghauer). An affair happens leading to a breakdown in his relationship with Christine as things for Antoine eventually gets worse.

The film is another tale of Antoine Doinel’s misadventures as he tries to find his way around the world. This time around, he seems to finally get himself together as he becomes a married man and a father. Yet, he would eventually take things for granted as he would want something more that would threaten to destroy the stability he and Christine wanted in their life. Even as he make plans to write his novel about himself that would later set the course of what would come from him. It does play to the sense of confusion and wonderment that Antoine is going through as it is clear that his attempts to mature himself has once again fallen by his own undoing.

While the screenplay is much looser in terms of its structure and story, it does manage to explore the complexity of marriage as well as family life. Though Christine might seem like a woman who is more content with her role, she’s also someone who feels slighted by Antoine’s insecurities as it leads to frustrations. When Antoine meets this exotic Japanese woman, all hell breaks loose as it causes problems in the marriage where Antoine would force to face harsh truths about himself.

Francois Truffaut’s direction is more straightforward in this film as he does maintain some striking compositions that is engaging to see. Notably in a moment where Antoine and Christine’s neighbors (Daniel Boulanger and Sylvia Blasi) have their spat as they’re about to go out. While there’s some scenes shot on location in Paris, the direction is mostly restrained to capture the sense of discomfort in the world of marriage through these simple yet ominous framing devices. There’s still a semblance of style in relation to the way Antoine deals with Kyoko as includes some very funny scene of Antoine trying to adapt to Japanese custom as well as a very powerful yet humorous moment of how Christine makes her discovery and its eventual reaction. Overall, Truffaut creates a solid yet engaging film about the world of marriage.

Cinematographer Nestor Almendros does excellent work with the cinematography from the colorful look of the locations to the more naturalistic look of the interiors in the apartment Antoine and Christine live in. Editor Agnes Guillemot does nice work with the editing with its use of jump-cuts, fade-outs, and split-screens to play out Antoine‘s sense of misadventure. Production designer Jean Mandaroux does terrific work with the set pieces from the look of the quaint apartment Antoine and Christine live in to the more stylish world of Kyoko.

Costume designer Francoise Tournafond does wonderful work with the costumes to contrast the two personalities of Christine and Kyoko with the former more casual and proper while Kyoko is more stylish but also traditional in her Japanese wardrobe. Sound Rene Levert does some stellar work with the sound to capture the intimacy of the locations as well as the moments between Antoine and Christine. The film’s music by Antoine Duhamel is brilliant for its low-key orchestral score and character-based themes to play up some of the film’s humor.

The film’s ensemble cast features some superb appearances from Barbara Laage as a secretary that Antoine befriends, Billy Kearns as Antoine’s American boss, Daniel Boulanger and Sylvia Blasi as Antoine and Christine’s older neighbors, Claude Vega as the mysterious strangler, Daniel Ceccaldi and Claire Duhamel as Christine’s parents, and Hiroko Berghauer as Antoine’s Japanese lover Kyoko. Claude Jade gives an incredible performance as Christine as she displays an air of radiance for her character who deals with the changes in her life as well as Antoine’s immaturity. Finally, there’s Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel where Leaud brings a wit to his character as he becomes overjoyed as a father but still unsure of himself as a man where he’s overwhelmed by Kyoko’s presence.

Domicile Conjugal is an excellent film from Francois Truffaut that features amazing performances from Jean-Pierre Leaud and Claude Jade. The film is a really insightful view into the world of marriage and adulthood shown from the perspective of a man still dealing with his own issues. In the end, Domicile Conjugal is a remarkable film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine and Colette - The Soft Skin - Fahrenheit 451 - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - Day for Night - The Story of Adele H. - Small Change - The Man Who Loved Women - The Green Room - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - The Woman Next Door - Confidentially Yours

(The Auteurs #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2))

© thevoid99 2012

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