The Smiling Madame Beudet (La Souriante Madame Beudet) (1923) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Smiling Madame Beudet (La Souriante Madame Beudet) (1923)





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Movie Info

The now-forgotten silent work La Souriante de Madame Beudet is generally regarded by scholars and theorists as history's premier "feminist film." Directed by French cinema pioneer Germaine Dulac, and scripted by André Obey from a story by Guy de Maupassant, the 37-minute piece concerns the titular character (portrayed by Germaine Dermoz), the dissatisfied bourgeois housewife of a thoughtless, self-centered shopkeeper. Decades of marital submission have reduced Mme. Beudet to irrepressible melancholia and ennui, and have rendered her an emotional prisoner to her world and herself. Her rich fantasy world, however, consists of breezy, idyllic and lyrical interludes with a host of young, handsome paramours. Mme. Beudet also fantasizes about laying waste to her husband - but every such hopeful wish fizzles out as she resurfaces in the reality of the everyday. Throughout the picture, Dulac uses such devices as slow motion, distortions, and superimposed images to paint Beudet's various emotional states onscreen. Originally produced in 1923, Madame Beudet instantly established Dulac as a force in world cinema and is generally regarded as her masterwork. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi
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Critic Reviews for The Smiling Madame Beudet (La Souriante Madame Beudet)

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Audience Reviews for The Smiling Madame Beudet (La Souriante Madame Beudet)


A beautifully directed story about a woman trapped in a loveless marriage. We see through her eyes as she fantasizing about how her life could be. Her husband is a cold man, who does not value her wife's gift of piano playing (locking it up as he goes out to see a play), and fantasizes about other women while they sleep in separate beds. The style of the film is very high-level for a silent film, with ghost-like effects for the visions Madame Beudet has, which include a handsome tennis player who heroically arrives to get rid of the difficult husband. The acting can be over the top at times, but closeups are very restrained and soft. The closing scene with the couple embracing, while a vision of a puppet couple acting out the same scenario is brilliant, as the curtain closes on the puppet show with the word "Theater". The ending makes you think about what constitutes love and marriage, as this couple realize their relationship has become more a habit than an attraction. Yet, they appear to accept it, as they realize that despite their troubles, one wouldn't want to live without the other. One of the best silent films I've seen.

Chris Ducat
Chris Ducat

Madame Beudet is trapped in a marriage that cancels her personality and the film suggests the unfortunate situation of the woman through her husband's brutal gestures: he re-arranges her flowers again and again, he locks the piano, he's mocking her in front of his friend.
I'm not sure if the title is sarcastic (Mrs. Beudet is fundamentally unhappy) or if she smiles her dreams to escape from this marriage.
She would like a divorce, but a better opportunity seems to arise when her husband leaves home, not before playing his favorite joke: suicide with an unloaded gun. She loads the gun, but is then haunted by remorse. Even more, her husband's image follows her in the night dreams.
In the morning, she tries unsuccessfully to remove the bullets from the revolver but her husband changes his mind and heads the gun to her.

Alice Smith
Alice Smith

Super Reviewer

What's up with the lack of info and image, this is a classic, a master example of great silent filmmaking.

Manny Casillas
Manny Casillas

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