Review: Domicile conjugal (Bed & Board, 1970)

bed and board

The French harbor racist tendencies towards the Japanese I take it?

Dialogue By: Claude de Givray, Bernard Revon, & François Truffaut
Directed By: François Truffaut

It’s usually not a good sign to start a review of a film talking about the mundane nature of said film. Being mundane is, in most circles I know of at least, viewed as an inherent negative. To be mundane is to be boring and ordinary. There’s very few things that people rail against as much as the ordinary and the boring. Film is an odd duck though, because quite often it’s been my experience that being mundane is a great quality in a film. In the film world mundane can take on a quality beyond being ordinary and boring. There’s a simplicity to a film willing to tackle the mundane nature of life, love, and relationships. Mundane becomes not boring and ordinary, rather it is exploratory and truthful.

If we’re honest cinephiles we’ll be able to recognize that not every moment of our lives is a scene out of Transformers. Action and the extraordinary is fun, it can make for a great escape from reality. Our lives can be just as fun though, and a lot of times its the mundane moments that are the most fun. Domicile conjugal is mundane and a lot of fun, at least up until its last act. There’s a scene where Christine brings Antoine a new toothpaste to use. It’s that simple, but the way the film plays the scene is a lot of fun. It’s fresh and lively, showing the happy moments of a relationship that don’t seem like they matter but are integral to a healthy relationship. The small and the mundane is the goal of Domicile conjugal, and for the first two acts it achieves its goal simply, and beautifully.

The final act is tough to swallow, and it doesn’t work for the most part. The introduction of the Kyoko character presents two problems for the outer texture of the film. The first is the way the film treats her as a Japanese woman. François Truffaut approaches her character in a way that teeters towards racism. The way that the French characters react to her prickled my skin, and the way the film has her act had my skin starting lightly on fire. Domicile conjugal treats Kyoto’s race as a punchline, and that is something that leaves me uncomfortable. The second problem is that her character is unnecessary. She’s a problem within the plot that need not exist. Her only reason for existing is to create a few laughs and to drive a wedge between Antoine and Christine. That wedge didn’t need to, and in all reality shouldn’t, have been driven. It’s forced, and it works against the mundane and simple approach of the first two acts of the film.

I enjoyed the first two acts of Domicile conjugal, but I can’t say the same for the final act. The simple approach and the focus on the mundane gave way to unneeded complexity and drama. I prefer the light touch of the first two acts of the film to the heavy hand at play in the final act. In the first two acts Monsieur Truffaut is painting with the lightest of strokes. In the final act he is smacking the canvas with his brush, exerting himself on his motion picture as wholly as he can. Domicile conjugal is a decent film, and the romantic comedy genre could stand to learn a lot from its first two acts of this film. The final act, sadly, represents what people think of when they think of a standard rom-com. That’s a bummer of a way to end the review, but the film does end in a manner that is equally bummerish.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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2 responses to “Review: Domicile conjugal (Bed & Board, 1970)

  1. I did a mini-marathon of the entire Antoine Doinel series 2 years ago as I’m now covering all of Truffaut’s work for the entire year as he will be my final Auteurs subject for this year. So far, I’ve covered all but one film of his work from the 60s. Now I’m on his work in the 70s. I liked this film though I think the ones before that in the series were much better.

  2. It’s tough to beat The 400 Blows when it’s the first film in your series.

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