Bed and Board (1970)
Director: François Truffaut
Writer: François Truffaut, Claude de Givray, and Bernard Revon
Cinematographer: Nestor Almendros
by Jon Cvack
Yet again, Netflix spoils the film by revealing what happens after nearly 60% of the film is over. Regardless, the story is Truffaut’s fourth in his Antoine Doinel series; a character that’s a more exaggerated version of Truffaut himself, perhaps most famous as the lead character from The 400 Blows. Doniel is played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, who embodies the look of a selfish, shitty, self-centered person. In Bed and Board, Doniel is now a street florist, trying to discover the best way to use food coloring to create the perfect red carnation, at times with literally explosive results. As with many of Truffaut’s films, about half of it takes place in an apartment containing a colorful cast of characters, including the strange neighbor who watches and attempts to help Doniel’s floral concoctions, and a concupiscent woman, making countless failed attempts to seduce Doniel, who seems more oblivious than uninterested.
He’s married to Claudine (Claude Jane), whose elegance and patience is unfounded. We’re not entirely sure what she sees in Doniel, but given that I haven’t seen The 400 Blows in years or Antoine and Colette ever, I’ll assume I’m leaving something out.
Eventually, Doniel gets a job at some shipping company, in which he’s in control of an incredibly ornate quay model, in which he gets to drive radio controlled ships around a pond. I’m not sure what this has to do with anything and it seems more McGuffin in design, given that it’s what eventually leads to his meeting Kyoko (Hiroko Berghauer). The two enter into an affair, just as Claudine gets pregnant. Doniel’s job was pretty funny, but similar to the movement in many of the 00s comedies, where there seemed to be a race between who could come up with the goofiest job for the slacker main character. Those decisions are all the more uninspired after revisiting Truffaut.
Nevertheless, Doniel grows on you as the film progresses. He’s a loveable idiot, who's clearly trying, although completely weak-willed. It’s clear that a mixture of boredom and fear of further descent into adulthood has caused him to pursue Kyoko. Not having any particular passions or motivations, he maintains a childish regard for all his actions. Doniel doesn’t even see his infidelities as all that bad, and neither do we. In some ways we too want to forgive him, since it seems almost more of a mental defect than a deliberate choice. The relationship eventually goes stale as he discovers that beneath the exotic superficialities of Kyoko there is very little else. They have nothing to talk about, and their indiscretions start taking on a clockwork mundanity that makes his marriage look fresh and exciting. In a great final sequence, while at dinner with Kyoko, Doniel keeps going back to the payphone to call Claudine and complain. Again, as despicable as the act is, we can’t help finding it cute and celebrate his return home. It’d take nine years before Truffaut would return to Doniel with Love on the Run, which will be checked out later this year.
BELOW: Antoine Doinel tries to speak English at his new job; love Truffaut's casting of an American businessman
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