If any woman in 1965 had the gumption to make a film on male sexual desire, question French middle class family values, make it look like an art piece, and, perhaps sarcastically, call it Le Bonheur (Happiness), it’s Agnès Varda.
The film is the story of a young and beautiful couple, François and Thérèse (played by a real-life couple Jean-Claude and Claire Drouot) who paint a perfect family portrait, complete with two cherubic young ones (played by couple’s own children). It follows the social conventions of marriage and family, and Varda takes notes with a keen socio-anthropological eye. As if conducting a scientific experiment, the filmmaker introduces disruptions and observes how they change the processes of familial and social happiness. She asks questions and makes inferences. Is happiness always the end-game? If it is, then does it matter who you choose to be happy with and who brings you happiness? Is happiness specific to individuals?
What could have been a morality play set in idyllic locales becomes a riot of color under Varda’s watch, and she delivers a film that is so beautiful and absorbing at the same time that the audience is spellbound, for 80 minutes, under the delightfully controlled mayhem.