Bed and Board (Domicile conjugal) Review

Most of what follows is revised from my review of the 2Entertain/Cinema Club DVD, written for this site in 2007 here. Material about Antoine et Colette is revised and updated from my previous review of Stolen Kisses.

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At the end of Stolen Kisses, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Christine Darbon (Claude Jade) had just become engaged. The film was such a success that a follow-up was demanded. Henri Langlois, director of the Cinémathèque 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. 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 in returning to a previous success he was “running for cover”.

However, according to DP Nestor Almendros (making the second of his ten 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).

Most of what follows is revised from my review of the 2Entertain/Cinema Club DVD, written for this site in 2007 here.Material about Antoine et Colette is revised and updated from my previous review of Stolen Kisses.

At the end of Stolen Kisses, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Christine Darbon (Claude Jade) had just become engaged. The film was such a success that a follow-up was demanded. Henri Langlois, director of the Cinémathèque 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. 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 in returning to a previous success he 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).

The DVD
Bed and Board is one of twelve Truffaut features Artificial Eye are releasing on Blu-ray and DVD. A checkdisc of the latter was supplied for review, and comments and affiliate links refer to that edition (Affiliate links for the Blu-ray can be found here. The disc is dual-layered and encoded for Region 2 only.

The transfer is in the correct ratio of 1.66:1 and anamorphically enhanced. Denys Clerval's work on Stolen Kisses had that heightened look typical of Sixties Eastmancolour, with a slight bias towards orange in skintones. Almendros was a leading classicist among cinematographers, favouring natural light where possible and always wanting a light source to be justified, and in this film colours tend to be more muted for the most part. The transfer is solid, colourful when it needs to be, and grain is natural and filmlike.

The soundtrack is the original mono. Much of the film was recorded with direct sound, 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.

Eleven of Artificial Eye's DVD titles first saw release in French editions from MK2 in 2002, either singly or as part of three box sets. Many of the extras from those releases have been carried over. All eleven feature a short introduction by Serge Toubiana (here, running 3:23): a French voiceover (English subtitles provided) over stills.

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 again provided, but only appear if you select the commentary from the extras menu. It’s clear that the two Claudes (female and male respectively) 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. Also included on the disc is the trailer (3:08).

However, also on this disc is the short film Antoine et Colette. This film, a segment of the five-director, five-nation portmanteau film L'amour à vingt ans (Love at Twenty) from 1962, was included on previous releases of Stolen Kisses, which is the logical place for it, as it comes between The Four Hundred Blows and that film chronologically. In Antoine et Colette, shot in black and white Scope by Raoul Coutard, Antoine is Doinel is now twenty (and is played again by Léaud, who was actually eighteen at the time). He falls for Colette (Marie-France Pisier), though she regards him as more of a friend. He spends the evening with her parents while she is out on a date. This short film was generally reckoned as one of the highlights of the film – which admittedly I have not seen. Truffaut felt he still had more material about Antoine Doinel that he could use, and continued his adventures at feature length in Stolen Kisses.

Antoine et Colette is presented anamorphically in the ratio of 2.35:1. The soundtrack is mono, and there are points where it drops out entirely (once ten minutes in, and again at the end), with the subtitles advising us what we haven't heard. Some sequences are intentionally shot without sound, such as Antoine pressing a vinyl record to give to Colette. As this was the opening segment of Love at Twenty, the transfer begins with the Twentieth Century Fox logo and the opening credits for the feature. The short film ends with a series of still photographs which separated the original stories. This gives a total running time of 29:01. There is also a short introduction, again by Toubiana (1:35) and a commentary in which Toubiana talks to Marie-France Pisier. She talks about how the film was her big break, after a casting director had spotted her. She has a brief uncredited cameo as Colette in Stolen Kisses and plays the character again in Love on the Run.

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The DVD
Bed and Board is one of twelve Truffaut features Artificial Eye are releasing on Blu-ray and DVD. A checkdisc of the latter was supplied for review, and comments and affiliate links refer to that edition (Affiliate links for the Blu-ray can be found here. The disc is dual-layered and encoded for Region 2 only.

The transfer is in the correct ratio of 1.66:1 and anamorphically enhanced. Denys Clerval's camerawork on Stolen Kisses had that heightened look typical of Sixties Eastmancolour, with a slight bias towards orange in skintones. Almendros was a leading classicist among cinematographers, favouring natural light where possible and always wanting a light source to be justified, and in this film colours tend to be more muted for the most part. The transfer is solid, colourful when it needs to be, and grain is natural and filmlike.

The soundtrack is the original mono. Much of the film was recorded with direct sound, 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.

Eleven of Artificial Eye's DVD titles first saw release in French editions from MK2 in 2002, either singly or as part of three box sets. Many of the extras from those releases have been carried over. All eleven feature a short introduction by Serge Toubiana (here, running 3:23): a French voiceover (English subtitles provided) over stills.

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 again provided, but only appear if you select the commentary from the extras menu. It’s clear that the two Claudes (female and male respectively) 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. Also included on the disc is the trailer (3:08).

However, also on this disc is the short film Antoine et Colette. This film, a segment of the five-director, five-nation portmanteau film L'amour à vingt ans (Love at Twenty) from 1962, was included on previous releases of Stolen Kisses, which is the logical place for it, as it comes between The Four Hundred Blows and that film chronologically. In Antoine et Colette, shot in black and white Scope by Raoul Coutard, Antoine is Doinel is now twenty (and is played again by Léaud, who was actually eighteen at the time). He falls for Colette (Marie-France Pisier), though she regards him as more of a friend. He spends the evening with her parents while she is out on a date. This short film was generally reckoned as one of the highlights of the film – which admittedly I have not seen. Truffaut felt he still had more material about Antoine Doinel that he could use, and continued his adventures at feature length in Stolen Kisses.

Antoine et Colette is presented anamorphically in the ratio of 2.35:1. The soundtrack is mono, and there are points where it drops out entirely (once ten minutes in, and again at the end), with the subtitles advising us what we haven't heard. Some sequences are intentionally shot without sound, such as Antoine pressing a vinyl record to give to Colette, but the drop-outs elsewhere in the film clearly should not be there. As this was the opening segment of Love at Twenty, the transfer begins with the Twentieth Century Fox logo and the opening credits for the feature. The short film ends with a series of still photographs which separated the original stories. This gives a total running time of 29:01. There is also a short introduction, again by Toubiana (1:35) and a commentary in which Toubiana talks to Marie-France Pisier. She talks about how the film was her big break, after a casting director had spotted her. She has a brief uncredited cameo as Colette in Stolen Kisses and plays the character again in Love on the Run.

Film
6 out of 10
Video
9 out of 10
Audio
6 out of 10
Extras
8 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

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