Saturday, February 28, 2015

Before I Die #540: The Smiling Madame Beudet (1922)

This is the 540th I've now watched of the 1,162 films to see "Before You Die" list that I'm gradually working my way through.

Director: Germaine Dulac

It's a short, sharp little tale, and it's one that features a ton of early innovative film techniques.

The Beudets: one miserable wife and one oblivious husband.
If it weren't so short, this film would be a chore to watch for
most modern viewers. 
Clocking in at a very spare 26 minutes, The Smiling Madame Beudet tells the story of an intelligent middle-aged woman stuck in a loveless marriage. She escapes the drudgery of life with her boorish husband by daydreaming of a more glamorous life. Her husband is fond of playing a trite gag in which he will put an empty pistol to his head and pretend to be suicidal. One day, his wife puts a bullet in the gun, hoping for her husband to unwittingly kill himself. The story goes more from here, with a tragic twist.

The movie is far too short to become boring, and it is an interesting piece of early cinema. One reason is that it uses several early techniques such as overlap dissolve and other editing tricks to offer visuals which were rather novel for their day. A modern viewer will likely not be impressed, but it helps to keep in mind when the film was made.

Some research reveals that The Smiling Madame Beudet is also credited with being one of the earliest feminist films. Feminism in movies has evolved by leaps and bounds since 1922, especially within the last thirty to forty years, so this 93-year-old movie will not offer you anything new on that front. Still, this fact does cement its place in film history.

It's hardly a "must watch" movie, though real film history buffs will certainly appreciate much of it.

Thanks to the marvel of public domain, you can even watch it, legally, for free:

That's 540 films down. Only 622 to go before I can die...