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 <I>bourgeois</I> 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.
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