150 films to go! Thanks to the recent list expansion, it took me an additional two films to get to this mini-landmark. Now that I am here, it really does feel like I can knock out this challenge in two years bar any significant changes in a overdue revamp. I’ll still be sticking to the older and safer films where possible, so today I watched one of the very few 1930s films left: The Baker’s Wife.
After Boudu Saved From Drowning I was a bit reluctant to see this film. I mean, all they have in common is being a 1930s French comedy – but since the humour in that Renoir film was such a disconnect from my own, I didn’t think The Baker’s Wife would fare much better. Well, I was wrong. Whilst this this not going to make an impact on my favourite films list, and it’s actually more of a dramedy than anything, I did enjoy this film.
The story goes like this – a new baker and his wife move into town and he bakes the most wonderful bread. However, she soon runs away with a local shepherd and – unable to bake due to his depression… and the male villagers just being jerks to him about being a cuckold – the villagers work to find her and bring her back. After all, what is French life without bread?
The characterisation that goes into the members of this little Provencal village reminds me of Tati’s debut film Jour de Fete, down to the jerkwad local drunks. I guess that it goes to show that there are a bunch of accepted villager characteristics in France. However, it is without a doubt that Raimu is what elevates this film. As the baker who, initially, is so overtly optimistic about people that he can’t even fathom that his wife is being seduced – we cannot help but love him as he faces the truth and gives into the despair of being left.
Then there is the ending where, in his own hurt way, he forgives his repentent wife. He even baked a heart-shaped loaf of bread in case she came home hungry. It’s beautifully done and whilst it is a little bit too neat – it works in the context of this as a pastoral.