The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923)

Made in 1922 this short, silent French film tells the story of a romantic woman trapped in a bad relationship. Madame Beudet is a modern lady in love with the arts, not her husband whose heart gravitates towards matters of money. Prone it dramatic threats of suicide, the husband routinely places and empty revolver against his head. In the hopes that he’ll kill himself and free her from her loveless marriage, the Madame places a few bullets in the gun, but her plan backfires on her.

It was nice to finally see this early feminist classic film by Germain Dulac. Her impressive use of French Impressionist film techniques are not as overt as many of her male counter-parts of the same era, but she skillfully creates a lush work of cinema that is not only a visual treat for the eyes, but one that takes some rather funny swipes at males. Not as angry as it is humorous, I did notice that most of the males sitting in the auditorium quickly lost interest in the film. In a way, their reaction was almost expected. The Smiling Madame Beudet lacks visceral imagery or a strong male lead – to things that seem almost necessary to capture the attention of your average 18-21 year old make viewer.

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