Rating (out of 5): ****
Agnes Varda's third feature film examines the viability of monogamy in the age of free love and the search for happiness in a time of total unrest. Le Bonheur is similar in concept and cynicism to Jean Luc Godard's Pierrot Le Fou (both released in 1965, no less) but contains none of the bitterness of Pierrot. Varda's deep affection for each of her characters even as they make terrible choices that bring them to eventual doom makes a statement about sexual politics and the fleeting nature of human affection that feels modern even watching it forty-three years after it was made.
Francois and Therese are a young, happily married couple with two charming, obedient children (played by real life family Jean-Claude and Claire Drouot and their two children). He works as a craftsman in his uncle's artisan furniture store, she is a dress-maker tailoring to brides to be. As in their work so is their relationship, she is doting and constantly seeking affirmation of his love for her and he, driven by passion. After a chance encounter with Therese (Marie-France Boyer), a younger woman who bears a striking resemblance to his wife, falls in love with her and begins an affair. He rationalizes to both women that the situation is "happiness by addition" pointing out that having a lover on the side makes him a better husband to his wife nor is he a terrible partner to his mistress because she is a modern woman allowed to remain free from the shackles of marital expectations.
Read the rest of my review at Greencine.