Toronto filmmaker Sofia Bohdanowicz travels to Paris, France to tentatively live with a colleague’s mother, Juliane Sellam, in the documentary Maison du Bonheur, a boring film that never lives up to its experimental ambition.
For one month, in hopes to capture a different lifestyle, Sophia records some conversations with Juliane. Juliane is a natural on camera, but she also manages to stay modest when she’s carrying out routine activities she loves to indulge in; including enjoying her morning coffee, making her traditional bread, and treating herself to some time at the salon. These segments are narrated by Juliane (and occasionally by Sofia), and each activity is separated by bookended smash-cuts to black.
Juliane Sellam seems like a lovely person, but I have problems finding a purpose to Sofia Bohdanowicz’s documentary – the audience is given no reason to care about anything they’re observing. By the end of her trip, even Sophia is puzzled by what to make of her project, alluding to an open-ended interpretation for the arthouse crowd. However, it’s not so much of a viewer’s challenge than it is Bohdanowicz taking a trip and waiting for someone back in Toronto to do her homework.
As a filmmaker, Bohdanowicz needs to develop an instinctual quality that suggests to her when her project is in need of direction. Here’s hoping she improves by her next film.
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