The Smiling Madame Beudet

Madame Beudet (Germaine Dermoz) lives an unhappy live being mocked and tormented by her husband (Alexandre Arquillière). He works all day as a cloth merchant and ignores his wife when he comes home. He arranges tickets for them for the theatre to a performance of Faust but, when she declines to go, he pretends he will kill himself with a gun he keeps in a top drawer. Evidently he keeps the gun unloaded and uses this trick often to mock his wife. However, when he goes to the show with his associate and his wife (Jean D’Yd & Madeleine Guitty), Mrs. Beudet loads the gun in the hope that the next time he pulls the stunt he’ll follow through and kill himself.
the-smiling-madame-beudetThis was suggested by Steve from 1001Plus as being a not very good film on the 1001 Movies list. However, at just 38 minutes long and being readily available on YouTube this 1922 French silent short was perfect for a lunchtime viewing sat at my desk at work. What is wasn’t perfect for was anything else.

It’s not a bad film, it’s just not worth watching. There’s nothing here to grab the attention. Nothing fun, nothing exciting, nothing all that dramatic, just some of the worst examples of the silent era’s overacting and gurning for the camera that I’ve ever seen. Despite being so short it still seemed to drag, and the overall premise didn’t work either. I could never quite understand how Mr. Beudet’s suicide prank was supposed to work, given how Mrs. Beudet knew the gun wasn’t loaded, and it’s remarked that he does it all the time. The whole thing felt like an under-thought-out set-up for a pay-off that was far less revelatory than it needed to be.
Effects-wise there are some nice uses of super-imposing another character over the top of a scene, when Mrs. Beudet fantasises about a tennis player from a magazine (Raoul Paoli) giving her husband a seeing to, which is impressive for the early 1920s, but other than the technical wizardry and some uncharacteristic-for-the-time feminist undertones there’s nothing else here to see.

Choose Life 4/10

7 thoughts on “The Smiling Madame Beudet

  1. I lost all sympathy for Madame Beudet when she turned down her husband’s offer to go to the opera. I want to go to the opera! I really don’t see how she could be so mad at someone who bought her opera tickets! If he is really that terrible, she should at least wait until they get back from the opera to start plotting his death.
    And what we ultimately end up with is the world’s worst gun safety PSA.

    • Ha, good point! Yeah there wasn’t much set-up for why we should feel sorry for her from a 1920s perspective. Nowadays she’d be the victim of a husband who keeps her home all day and probably abuses her, but here she only plots the murder after the husband has gone to the opera, and seemingly only because he locked her piano shut!

  2. The problem here is that Beudet is a troubled woman, who blames her husband for her woes. He is actually sweet and wants to help her, albeit in a clumsy and not very insightful way. How exactly this is feministic beats me.
    Disliked it with a vengeance.

    • Agreed. The only thing I can say towards the feminism is the depiction of a woman trying to stand up to her husband who always seems to get his way. It doesn’t really come across all that well I’lll grant you, it just depends on your certain point of view I suppose.

  3. Pingback: My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 52 | Life Vs Film

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