Canada’s Next: Our Review of ‘Maison du Bonheur’

Canada’s Next: Our Review of ‘Maison du Bonheur’

In documenting the life of a 77-year-old Parisian astrologer, Julianne Sellam, Sofia Bohdanowicz took a risk. Why cross the ocean for such a small step? But despite the seemingly mundane subject, Maison du Bonheur creates the same magic that Sellam creates every day for herself. Every trip to go to a store deserves full make-up and hair and a beautiful smile. Every new scene covers Sellam’s philosophy. They feel like different worlds with different colours yet it still feels cohesive. There’s something humanist in shedding light on the different aspects on someone’s life, even that of someone who isn’t ‘popular’.

Bohdanowicz uses 16mm, the workings of that machine becoming more obvious to the audience can hear in repeat viewings. It still perfectly captures the warm colors in Sellam’s life. She evokes Sirkian attention to gleaming light but doesn’t resort to simplifying the life of her subjects through melodrama. I keep thinking about this documentary in relation to the gaze, especially when Sellam reenacts moments of her daily life. But there’s something more here than the male gaze, which is inherently fetishistic. She composes every shot with love, and there’s also a desire in the same pleasures that Sellam is indulging in.

This is also an interesting entry into the documentary genre. This is because of how she follows Sellam’s routine within the 18th arrondissement. There are trips to the hair and nail salon. There are so many things this could be. People like Sellam could have fallen victim to a sneakier director’s ageism, sexism, and anti-Semitism. Lesser directors, who might be sympathetic to Sellam, might fall short to make audiences perceive her ‘superficial’ activities. But she gets everything tonally light andright, giving Sellam the dignity she already has. This isn’t reaching for some truth, Instead, every action here is purposeful.

There’s a nostalgic air to Bohdanowicz film as it depicts remnants of a gilded age. She also comments on craftsmanship here. That people work hard on themselves and the things they eat and make. Sellam, a good Frenchwoman, knows these things that we troglodytes across the pond ignore. That objects around us aren’t singular. Also, just put cheese in a movie literally and it automatically gets four stars. Even with or without the cheese, Bohdanowicz is one of the best working Canadian directors today. See this movie as soon as you can. I’m also excited to see her future work.

Maison du Bonheur is playing at TIFF’s big screens starting on August 17. It will also be on Mubi as part of their Canadian retrospective. For showtimes an tickets go to And to stream it weeks later go to

  • Release Date: 8/17/2018
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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