I. agnes varda’s le bonheur (happiness).

this film examines the notion of quantifiable happiness. it so reminds me of my father’s life, or what i am still learning about my father’s life as i grow older. in the many times i have made life altering decisions, my father would offer me his definition of “quality of life.” to my father, happiness isn’t a question of all or nothing--not happy or unhappy--but is instead an entity which can be measured in levels--happier or less happy. in the logic of quatifiable happiness, the more happiness you have, the happier you will be. this is my father’s logic.
if asked, however, my father’s short answer would simply be that happiness is love.

II. for me, love and happiness are not entirely the same.
i’m not so sure that my happiness is a function of the love in my life.
j s e asked me recently if i had ever experienced a six-month period in which i was consistently happy. i can say yes, but only in retrospect. day by day, i can’t definitively say. i may not be a happy man. but maybe i am.

i had a happy childhood. i’d say around 53% happy. my family dissolved in two when i was ten. my dad fell in love with my nanny. he quickly ended his unhappy marriage to my mother to be with the love of his life, my step mother of 30 or so years. i was not allowed to go to my father’s wedding, so i am to this day unsure of the exact year of their marriage.

shortly after their marriage, i too left my mother to live with my father and my step mother. happiness was living with them. my father’s side of the family was a far happier family than my mother’s side. this was entirely clear to me then and it still is today. when i was with my maternal side of the family, i was less than a happy child.

III. i fell for juliet a year ago, and we were married almost instantly. she is the love of my life, and i am happiest in her presence. you see, j s e is a happy person. this is not to say that she is care-free or without highs and lows. but happiness is her air. she is clear in her joy. i see it in her eyes, her face and in her body. it is her voice even in her printed word. life is happiness for my juliet.

i was profoundly moved and stirred by agnes varda’s le bonheur. it is available to rent from netflix or at your local independent video library. or to own from criterion.

if all is happiness
then happiness is this
and happiness is that.

tv screen shots by r s e from varda’s short film, du côté de la côte (1958)