Bed and Board (French: Domicile Conjugal) is a 1970 comedy-drama directed by François Truffaut. It stars Jean-Pierre Léaud and Claude Jade. Once again I watched a sequel before the prequel, in this case prequels, as Bed and Board is the fourth of five Truffaut films about Antoine Doinel (played by Léaud). But I wanted to see this one after reading about it in Ian Buruma's book Tokyo Romance, in which he claims this film was one of the two reasons for his initial desire to go live in Japan.
Buruma writes: "I saw a movie by François Truffaut, entitled Bed and Board (Domicile Conjugal). The story was relatively simple. A nice young man in Paris, named Antoine, played by Truffaut’s favorite actor and alter ego Jean-Pierre Léaud, has just got married to Christine, a nice French girl (Claude Jade). She is already pregnant with their first child. One day, on a job for an American firm, Antoine meets Kyoko, the daughter of a Japanese business client: willowy, with long shiny black hair and dark eyes set in a pale moon face, and dressed in an exquisite kimono, Kyoko, acted by the famous Pierre Cardin model Hiroko, shimmers on the screen like a mysterious Oriental fantasy."
He goes on to say: "And that is exactly what she turns out to be: a mirage. Antoine is hopelessly smitten by her silky beauty and her strange and graceful manners: little paper flowers that open in glasses of water to reveal her amorous sentiments for Antoine, and similarly exotic refinements. Christine, who has had her baby by now, realizes that Antoine is cheating on her. For a while Antoine can’t help himself, but in the end the dream begins to pall. He and Kyoko have nothing to say to each other. Paper flowers and sweet accented nothings are no longer enough. He longs for the familiar bourgeois certainties of Christine. The Oriental hallucination fades. Antoine comes down to earth. Husband, wife, and baby son get back together on solid French terrain."
Buruma called it a charming film but not one of Truffaut’s best. As for me, I thought it was quite funny. And the relationship (or absence of one) between Antoine and Kyoko is humorous and spot on in a sense, or perhaps stereotypically so.
Buruma went so far as to say: "I suppose the idea was to warn the viewer not to be taken in by exotic fantasies; true depth of feeling can only be found with people who have a culture in common. Transcending the borders of language and shared assumptions will result in disillusion."
Finally Buruma (who decades later met Hiroko and told her he'd fallen in love with her watching the film) admits: "I’m afraid that I refused to get the message. I fell in love with Kyoko. I wanted a Kyoko in my life, perhaps even more than one. How happy I would be in the land of Kyokos."
Ah, the plight or pleasure of the white man in Asia. But enough of all that, Bed and Board is a great film with strong, amusing characters and a punchy plotline.