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The art of advertising happiness: Agnès Varda’s Le Bonheur and Pop Art

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
E-pub ahead of print18 Apr 2017

King's Authors


This paper argues that, further to the established artistic influences on Le Bonheur, for example vibrant Impressionist tableaux such as Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s La Grenouillère (1869), Pop Art shapes both the aesthetic and the content of the film. As in the films of her friend Jean-Luc Godard, the paper argues, discrete images from Varda’s New Wave film critique contemporaneous advertising, principally that which is aimed at and objectifies women, in similar ways to Pop Art images of the era. Certainly, Pop’s images abounded with semi-nude and nude women, some of whom were not ironically presented but offered as a continuation of advertising’s gallery of sexualised female bodies. Andreas Huyssen argues, however, that Pop as a critical medium was cultivated by European artists in the 1960s who were ‘trying to develop an art of social criticism’. The author draws similar links between Pop Art, advertising and the cinema, locating those moments at which they interweave in Le Bonheur to reflect the Pop Art form and message. He suggests that the appropriation of consumerist imagery in Varda’s film, as in Pop Art, is an ironic counterpoint used to critique society as perceived by the artist.

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