Bed and Board (Domicile conjugal) Review
At the end of Stolen Kisses, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Christine Darbon (Claude Jade) have just become engaged. The film was such a success that a follow-up was demanded. Henri Langlois, director of the Cinemathèque Française and Truffaut’s mentor, specifically asked to see what happened after the couple were married. Two years later, he had his wish: Domicile conjugale (usually known in English, not especially accurately, as Bed and Board), with the same lead actors and the same writers (Claude de Givray, Bernard Revon and Truffaut), was the result.
There’s not a great deal of plot as such, more a set of incidents with the ups and downs of Antoine and Christine’s marriage as the main arc. At the beginning Antoine is working as a florist, leaning how to dye white roses the appropriate shade of pink or red, while Christine is a violin teacher. They live in an apartment with a diverse collection of eccentric neighbours, whose antics serve as a diverting background. Antoine and Christine become parents to a boy Antoine names, against Christine’s wishes, Alphonse. Antoine’s eyes wander, and he takes up with a Japanese woman called Kyoko (Hiroko Berghauer, billed as “Mademoiselle Hiroko”). This causes Christine to leave Antoine, but by the end of the film they have reached an understanding.
Stolen Kisses was as light as air, even more surprising considering the turbulent events that surrounded its making. (See the review linked to above for further details.) Bed and Board is much the same. Given how prolific Truffaut was at this time – Stolen Kisses was his second film of 1968, following The Bride Wore Black and in between the two Doinel films he had made Mississippi Mermaid and The Wild Child - he can certainly be excused a less demanding, pleasantly indulgent project such as this, drawing on and nodding to the classic screwball comedies directed by Ernst Lubitsch and Leo McCarey, with a few tips of the chapeau to his fellow countryman Jacques Tati for good measure. Truffaut had good commercial reasons as well: Mississippi Mermaid had been an expensive flop and returning to a previous success was “running for cover”.
However, according to DP Nestor Almendros (making the second of his nine films with Truffaut), being a comedy does not guarantee a happy production. Filming took place during a cold winter, which meant much pressure to shoot – using a constantly mobile camera - while it was still light. Making the film in Paris added its own challenges. Almendros didn’t think Bed and Board was his best work for Truffaut by any means. Although the film is certainly pleasant to look at, its visual aspects are secondary to the characters and dialogue.
Bed and Board was very well received. Nine years later, Truffaut returned to Antoine Doinel, still very much a semi-autobiographical surrogate and played as ever by Jean-Pierre Léaud, for the last time with L’amour en fuite (Love on the Run).
This DVD release from 2 Entertain, is one of a second batch of six Truffauts. The disc is encoded for Region 2 only. It’s derived from the French MK2 edition (available singly or as part of the Les aventures d’Antoine Doinel box set) but there are significant differences between the two, which I detail below.
The transfer is in the correct ratio of 1.66:1 and anamorphically enhanced. There are no real issues here, being a solid and sharp image, in that slightly heightened late-60s colour. Blacks are solid and shadow detail is fine. There is a light grain, but nothing that’s shouldn’t be there. Some minor telecine wobble is visible in places, notably the opening credits.
The soundtrack is the original mono. Much of the film was recorded “live”, as is sometimes noticeable by the ambience. However, the dialogue is always clear. Subtitles are optional if your French is up to it. (Some English-language dialogue, during a scene where Antoine applies for a job at an American company, is not subtitled.) The MK2 release has subtitles for the feature only; this disc provides them for the extras as well.
As with Stolen Kisses, the commentary is provided by Claude Jade and co-writer Claude de Givray, hosted by critic Serge Toubiana. The track is in French (subtitles are provided). It’s clear that the two Claudes (female and male respectively, in case you were wondering) have a considerable rapport for each other as well as very fond memories of Truffaut, and this comes over in their chat. Along the way, de Givray especially tells us quite a bit about how the film was originated and made. As before, Toubiana provides a short introduction to the film (3:28), divided into thematic sections, and also included is the trailer (3:08).
As well as lacking subtitles for the extras, the French edition has a few more extras. These are three short interviews with Truffaut from French TV: about his book Les aventures d’Antoine Doinel; on working with co-writer Bernard Revon; and answering the question “Who is Antoine Doinel?” This DVD also includes trailers for all of MK2’s Truffaut releases.
Truffaut fans will no doubt snap this up, particularly as it is more English-friendly than the French release, though it would have been good to have the Truffaut interviews as well. As for the film, it’s Truffaut at his lightest, intending to please his audience rather than challenge them, so your mileage may vary according to sensibility. It’s certainly well worth seeing, and 2Entertain’s DVD does do it justice.
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