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Episode 41 - Le Bonheur

posted Oct 15, 2018, 9:07 AM by Joreth InnKeeper

Le Bonheur (1965) 
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058985/ - Internet Movie Data Base
https://amzn.to/2CKFTll - Amazon (non-US format)
 
Someone recommended this movie to me as a poly movie, and I can see why he did, but I have to disagree. I don't think this was a poly movie. I think this movie had a poly character in it, but the movie was not polyamorous. As far as enjoyment goes, my tastes run towards the banal and crude - I like action flicks and screwball comedies. I've written several times that I just don't get artsy films or foreign films made during the sexual revolution when things were all experimental and everything looked like the writers and directors were permanently on LSD.
 
So you might like this film if your tastes differ from mine - don't avoid seeing it on the basis of my personal enjoyment if you happen to be into artsy or foreign or '60s movies. And as far as artsy or foreign or '60s movies goes, this wasn't even all that horrible. It didn't have the bizarre music or jump cuts of A Woman Is A Woman. But, probably because of the difference in cultures, I just didn't find this movie very interesting or the characters very compelling. I know, there's irony in that statement after admitting that I like movies like Caddyshack. But it's the truth, I found the movie just kind of blah. However, I can see other people enjoying it. I have lots of friends who like lots of movies that I don't enjoy, and I can see some of them really liking this film.
 
As for the poly stuff, the plot is about a married man who loves and adores his wife and kids, but who falls in love with another woman. According to my movie guidelines, cheating movies do not get added to the list, but a movie where the cheater genuinely loves both of his partners and there is some outside constriction preventing them from living honestly (such as social taboos) may be exempted and be added to the list.
 
Francois loves Therese, his wife. He's very happy with his life; content. But then one day he meets Emilie. And he falls immediately in love. This was his first strike against him, for me. I don't much hold with the love-at-first-sight bullshit. I believe people can have instant attractions to each other, and then sometimes, by coincidence, they are attracted to people who happen to also be compatible to them, so the attraction-at-first-sight can blossom into a true love, and it is when that happens that people think they fell in love at first sight. But we don't hear epic tales of attraction-at-first-sight that then turns out poorly. It's a matter of confirmation bias, or the Fake Boob/ Fake Toupee fallacy (which says "I can always spot fake boobs/toupees because they look fake, except when they don't and I can't"). Love at first sight is real, except when it isn't.
 
Anyway, so Francois falls in "love" with Emilie and immediately begins an affair with her. As I said, cheating movies don't make the list, but loving both partners might exempt it, so this movie could have been added to the list. The reason why it's not is because of the ending, which changes the whole tone of the movie into "multi-partner relationships are Wrong and Bad", and which I'll go into next, so spoilers ahead.
 

SPOILERS:

I think Francois is a selfish, egocentric jerk, more concerned with his own pleasure than anything else. Not liking a character, of course, is not grounds for expulsion from the list. But I didn't like him anyway. There isn't any indication in the movie that there is strong social pressure against turning this cheating V into an honest relationship. It just appears to be How Things Are Done, but there's no constriction or struggle against it.
 
Francois is honest with his mistress, Emilie, about being married with kids and about being happy with his home life. He gives her no illusions that she might one day become Mrs. Francois. So he has that going for him. But he never expresses any interest or desire in trying to change things, and Emilie accepts that she is the mistress out of hand.
 
However, the conversation we see between Emilie and Francois about this very thing is what makes me believe that Francois is actually poly and not just a cheating bastard who thinks with his prick, and is probably why the movie was recommended to me in the first place. He explains to Emilie how he loves both his wife and his mistress, that they're very different people and not interchangeable, and how happiness and love grows when there are more people.
 
In this conversation, he says that it was only chance that led him to meet his wife first and Emilie second, but if they had met in the reverse order, he would probably be living with Emilie instead. Emilie doesn't try to talk him out of his marriage, doesn't pout and wish to replace the wife. She seems to accept her role as mistress without any fuss. So this is why I don't see any particular outside pressure because the characters don't seem to be stressed or pressured to conform - they seem to be content with the way things are.
 
Later, Therese, the wife, notices that Francois has been extra happy of late and asks him why. Francois tries to get out of telling her, but she pushes, and he finally admits that there is another woman. Here we have another conversation that indicates he is obviously poly. He explains to Therese that his love for Emilie is not love taken away from Therese, that all his love for Theresa is still all his love for Theresa, it's just that extra love grew for Emilie when he met her.
 
Therese's lines indicate that she is unhappy with this revelation, but her acting doesn't show any emotion at all. At the end of this 2 minute conversation, Theresa smiles and does a complete reversal, accepting that her husband has a mistress and instigating sex.
 
At this point, I'm thinking, "ah, French films ... I just don't get them." But then came the part that took this movie out of the running for me.
 
This conversation between Francois and Therese takes place in the woods on their weekly picnic with the kids. Francois takes a nap after the sex and wakes up to find Therese gone. After a frantic search through the woods, he finds a crowd of people surrounding the body of his wife, who drowned herself in the lake. Obviously, Therese did not accept sharing her husband.
 
So we went from a movie with a poly guy stuck in a mono world with a wife and a mistress, to a movie with a selfish man whose personal pleasure was more important than the life or happiness of those around him, who cheated on his wife and kept the lie for as long as possible with no intentions of ever telling her except that she browbeat it out of him, and of said wife being so opposed to non-monogamy that she killed herself immediately, leaving her two toddler-age children alone with her cheating husband.
 
This, to me, sets the tone for "non-monogamy is doomed to fail, here watch this train-wreck to see why" and takes this movie off the list.
 
But it's not over yet.
 
So then Francois is left alone with his kids. But because he's a single father in the '60s, it is determined that he cannot care for the kids himself and gives them up to his brother & sister-in-law (or is it sister & brother-in-law? Whatever, it's the kids' aunt and uncle) to raise. After finishing the rest of the summer without his wife, without his kids, and without his mistress (he stayed in the town he was working in, rather than going back to his home, where the mistress happened to also live), he decides that he wants his happiness back.
 
So, conveniently, he has a young woman sitting around waiting for him and immediately sets her up in the role of substitute wife and mother. Emilie is just so happy to have Francois back in her life that she agrees to anything he wants. So Emilie steps in and Francois goes back to, basically, his original setup with a beautiful young wife and two young kids.
 
And that's where it ends.
 
This is why I find him to be selfish and egocentric. This whole movie is all about what Francois wants and he maneuvers everyone else around him to provide him with the life he wants without regard to everyone else's feelings. Emilie is now saddled with two toddlers, and we see a montage of Emilie feeding the kids, cleaning up after them, and being the dutiful housewife, whereas Therese was happy being the housewife, but the news of his infidelity made her so miserable that the only way she could see out was death. And in the end, Francois gets his life back with apparently no consequences except that he only has one woman instead of two, but he doesn't seem to mind all that much. By the end, the two women certainly seemed interchangeable to me, as Francois walks off into the sunset with his new wife and kids, all holding hands and strolling through the woods as if nothing has changed.
 
Although Francois said a lot of very good poly lines, this movie had that elusive and hard-to-quantify tone that implies, to me, that non-monogamy is bad. As I said in the guidelines, it's not whether a movie ends happily or tragically, or whether a multi-adult relationship breaks up or stays together - it's what the movie says about non-monogamy that puts it on the poly-ish movie list or not. And, in spite of the main character clearly being about loving multiple people, this movie said to me that non-monogamy is cruel and wrong and that a happy nuclear family is the goal.
 
I think one could defend some ambivalence in the message, with Francois being written sympathetically and not as a villain, so I don't actually recommend that ya'll avoid seeing this movie. It may be worth your time. But I think that the way things were wrapped up, ambivalence aside, the message was more pro-nuclear-family than pro-consider-alternatives, so I will not include it on the list, but I will suggest that people might want to see this movie if they're into French cinema or if they want to hear a protagonist defend the idea of loving two women at the same time.
 
You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

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