A Married Couple
(Un couple marié)
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 96 min
Aquarius Films Ltd.,
Allan King Associates Ltd.
Shot over 10 weeks using 70 hours of footage, this direct cinema portrait of a troubled young couple on the verge of separation straddles the line between documentary and fiction. Billy and Antoinette have daily power struggles — they constantly argue about money, the car and other possessions, and about raising Bogart, their three-year-old son. One evening, the couple assembles a new stereo together and dance to some records, but at the end of the night Antoinette won’t make love to Billy.
Billy has a bad day at work and quarrels bitterly with Antoinette over who has more right to use the car — then rails against her for being lazy for not returning some borrowed records. Billy throws her forcibly out of the house but she returns for dinner, which they have in silence. Eventually, Antoinette suggests living independent lives in separate halves of the house. This leads to a moment of renewed tenderness.
Shot in the manner of Warrendale, Allan King's A Married Couple is by turn exquisitely painful and hilariously funny. It also reveals the deep sense of loneliness that exists at the heart of the couple's relationship. The film delicately balances fiction and direct cinema and raises basic aesthetic issues about both. In fact, it's more of an “actuality drama” — the couple seem to "act out" their lives for the probing camera. King's intentions were to create an emotional experience rather than a simple record of the events.
Critical reaction in Canada, United States, the United Kingdom and France was generally favourable, and the film had a moderately successful commercial release. There were problems with the Ontario Censor Board which initially demanded numerous cuts, mostly to eliminate coarse language and the nude swimming sequence. After King threatened to sue, a compromise was reached and four cuts were made.
It has become, along with Warrendale, a benchmark in the evolution of direct cinema. For King, it marked the beginning of his transition to directing fiction.