I’m working my way through the DVD set, The Adventures of Antoine Doinel, and watched the fourth film, Bed and Board (Domicile Conjugal in French). Bed and Board delights as it shows Antoine as a newly wed. He’s married Christine whom he met in the previous film Stolen Kisses. The film offers a charming look at Antoine and his better functioning family members (i.e. his wife and in-laws) as he continues to hop from job to job. At the start of the film, Antoine’s job is coloring flowers for a florist shop. When his experiment to dye flowers red blows up, he soon gets a job with an American company controlling model boats in a harbor. It’s a silly job, which he got through an error, but Antoine never complains.
As a husband and father, Antoine is old fashioned in a quaint way and really wants to play out his role as protector and loving husband and father in his dreamy way. Christine and Antoine do disagree and have problems, but none are major. One of my favorite part of the movie is how Antoine goes behind Christine’s back to name his son. Yes, the was wrong. They should have solved the problem if only by flipping a coin, but it was a cute, very Antoine move.
Truffaut is amazingly sensitive about how he shows childbirth, infidelity and conjugal life. I’m guessing it was his style and not censorship in 1970s France. It made me smile.
A chance encounter with a Japanese siren, for whom his chivalry leads to temptation, shows a failing, and . . .
. . . his affair is discovered and as is all too often true in real life, Christine, the injured party, is devastated while Antoine, who’s had the affair, is confused why he can’t talk his way out. He’s convinced himself that since Kyoko is Japanese and thus exotic this dalliance is pardonable. It’s not like he fell for an ordinary woman, he tells Christine.
His affair is not sustainable. Kyoko mentions that Antoine’s the man she’d most like to commit suicide with and the sitting on the floor business is just too uncomfortable. She just won’t talk. Antoine realizes that he’s let Christine slip through his fingers as this smiling Japanese woman is driving him crazy.
Moments like Antoine bumping into his father-in-law at a brothel are quintessentially French. The father isn’t the least bit flustered or surprised.
With the affair and divorce the film could become full of anger and sadness, yet Truffaut finds a way to get an authentic, happier end. Thus the film isn’t realistic, but the Antoine movies don’t take place in the real world. Rather Truffaut is showing us a clever world he imagines.