The Cigarette

The Cigarette ★★★★½

Dulac's already clearly has complete command over her material: this plays fairly quickly and manages to establish rich and complex binaries that challenge each other: a mummified princess with a legacy of frivolousness manages to both suggest the husband's age and stiffness while also contrasting the wife's youth, vigor, freedom, and virtue; the image of the gun, a direct, simple, modern method of suicide contrasts the laborious, tedious, "alleviating" randomness of a poisoned cigarette (or hookah, or whatever). That randomness itself is a patriarchally enforced chaos that, rather than being a result of modernity (like much of postwar chaos was considered), is seen as in direct lineage to thousands of years of fragile masculine history.

And Dulac manages to construct a continuity-based narrative using both tableau staging as well as analytic editing while also imbuing it with strong imagery, which operates less like symbolist imagery and more like contouring: the two birds that the wife plays with don't seem to have any symbolic meaning but suggest a delicacy and kindness that is consistent with the wife.

And the flashback is expertly used, revising our understanding of past events while remaining coherent in terms of narrative: the first time through, we suspect the wife is clueless of what is going on. It's a subtlety of characterization and plotting that enrichens the entire piece and compliments the restrained performances.