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Film / La Souriante Madame Beudet

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What a jerk!
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La Souriante Madame Beudet (The Smiling Madame Beudet) is a French short film (38 minutes) directed by Germaine Dulac.

Directed by a woman, it has been called the first feminist movie. Mme. Beudet doesn't smile. In fact, she usually has more of a Thousand-Yard Stare. She is trapped in a miserable unhappy marriage with M. Beudet, her braying, annoying jerkass of a husband. M. Beudet is loud and obnoxious, as shown by several revolting closeups of his puffy face cackling. He's also pushy and demanding and petty: when Madame refuses to accompany him to the opera, preferring to stay home and play the piano, he locks the piano shut. They have nothing in common. Even something so trivial as the placement of a basket of flowers on the living room table is a source of conflict, with each of them moving the flowers around the table while the other is out of the room.

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M. Beudet has one particular habit that annoys his wife above all else. Monsieur Beudet likes to play a profoundly obnoxious "joke" in which he pulls a gun out of his desk, points it at his head, and pretends to commit suicide. The gun, of course, is never loaded. One day when he does this one too many times, on top of all his other petty provocations, Madame Beudet snaps. She takes his suicide gun out of his desk, and puts live ammunition in it.


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Tropes:

  • Awful Wedded Life: A nightmare of passive-aggressiveness and resentment.
  • Chekhov's Gun: An actual gun. Once we see M. Beudet's idiotic fake suicide "joke", we know it's going to come into play later.
  • Downer Ending: Madame Beudet is stuck being married to a man she hates.
  • Enter Stage Window: Madame Beudet can't even unwind when her jerk husband goes to the theater; she imagines him climbing through the window, dementedly cackling at her.
  • Imagine Spot: Madame has a rich fantasy life. She imagines a handsome suitor. When she sees a picture of a handsome tennis player in a magazine, she imagines the tennis player appearing in their home and dragging M. Beudet away bodily. She also has negative thoughts, imagining M. Beudet climbing through the window and visualizing a prison after she loads the gun.
  • Ironic Episode Title: The Smiling Madame Beudet, about a desperately sad woman who never smiles.
  • Jerkass: What a jerkass her husband is! Locking the piano when he goes to the opera, so she can't play it, really takes the cake.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: Madame Beudet engineers this by putting bullets into the always unloaded gun that her husband likes to use when he pretends to shoot himself.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with the Beudets walking together, but not hand-in-hand, down the streets of their little town.
  • Revealing Hug: When the gun goes off, Monsieur Beudet, who is both self-involved and stupid, thinks that his wife wanted to kill herself. He rushes over and embraces her, saying "How could I live without you?" Mme. Beudet has the Thousand-Yard Stare as he hugs her, confirming that she is not returning her husband's sudden affections.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: The default expression of the despairing Madame Beudet. Her husband even mocks her for this at one point.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Mme. Beudet likes to take off her wedding ring when she fantasizes about handsome men coming to swoop her away. Sometimes she just imagines the ring disappearing.
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