Throughout Francois Truffaut’s Doinel series, his alter-ego Antoine Doinel has searched and longed for one thing: love. Bed and Board, Truffaut’s fourth film about Doinel, begins with our hero and his wife happily married, living a stable life in an apartment in Paris. He has exactly what he has always wanted which is both a loving wife, and in-laws who care for him more than his parents ever did. As we have seen time and time again, Doinel’s ideal life is not actually what he truly wants, and desire and temptation get the better of him once again.
The vibrant energy that Truffaut showed as a filmmaker in Stolen Kisses is gone, not because he is bored but rather as this lack of energy reflects Doinel’s secret unhappiness. The reason I use the word ‘secret’ is not because Doinel hides it but because it appears he, himself, is not completely aware he is unhappy. His wife, Christine, takes any opportunity to make it clear that she is married, as she likes the idea more than actually being married to Doinel. They appear happy together, as if best friends, and that is the issue. We see them in bed together, but never romantically. They read, talk but never touch and it is through this we see the true reason they are together.
As Doinel has always searched for love, he has become accustomed to failure and rejection. In Stolen Kisses we saw Christine change her mind and actively pursue Antoine, something so different from what he was use to that it was inevitable they would end up together. In Bed and Board, we find Antoine and Christine in a loveless marriage, however neither of them is mature enough to realize this. In the past, Antoine would take any opportunity to receive “love”, however we see his new boss’ wife try to bed him repeatedly, but be rejected. This may signal a matured, faithful Antoine however, once Christine has their baby, he realizes his dream is not quite what he thought it would be, and he takes the first opportunity for “love”.
In each film we are introduced to Antoine once again several years in the future, while each situation is drastically different, the issues that drove him to act out in The 400 Blows are still present within him. As his life has changed so much in the years between each film, the way he acts out is almost entirely different.
The film’s tone is quite strange, awkward even. Truffaut’s use of muted colours and broad comedic conventions create a film that is both depressing and funny. He has proven in the past that he can make this combination work, however here it doesn’t quite come together. Antoine is at his least likeable in this film which is a problem as he is also the most interesting character. Truffaut’s Bed and Board is certainly the most flawed entry in the Doinel series, yet Leaud’s performance and Truffaut’s direction make it very watchable.