Published in Jungian Analysis, Papers

A Study of a Gambling Addiction

Jacques Demy’s movie Bay of the Angels (Baie des Anges).

© Elisabeth Pomès, 2009


From a dark screen with only the faint sound of the sea in the background, out of the circle of the camera, gradually getting larger, emerges the image of an elegant woman, clad in white (Jeanne Moreau), walking on the Bay of the Angels in Nice, on the south coast of France. Then the camera tracks backward and accelerates its motion; it recedes on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice as the music of Michel Legrand bathes the opening credits. The music is a lush and multi-layered piano composition evocative of vibrancy, speed (the movement of the camera accelerates), energy and, as we will discover, drama, tension and passion.

Initiation into the world of gambling. Separation from the father

The first part of the movie takes us to a patriarchal world, a world of money symbolized by the bank and the casino in Enghien, as well as the world of the main character’s father. The first scene is set in a bank. The camera, tracking in a downward angle, presents us with a mild-mannered and unassuming clerk named Jean Fournier who works at his desk, in a bank. It is a predominantly male world; the only female is the secretary who is ordered by Jean’s supervisor to give him his vacation pay-check and whose only words are: “Yes, sir”. Everybody is impeccably dressed with suits or dresses of a classic cut.  Jean is tired (” I’ve got to forget about figures” ). He accepts a ride from his co-worker Caron who has been able to afford a new car despite a  limited salary from the bank. The car is a DS Citroen, an expensive and powerful car, shaped like a giant tortoise. It is worth noting that DS and “Déesse” (goddess) are pronounced in the same way; in the sixties numerous jokes were made as to how men rode with their “goddess”!. The goddess is waiting for them as the two men exit the bank and  much of the men’s conversation happens as Caron is driving. Jean Fournier is surprised that his friend could afford such a car. Caron explains that he leads a double-life as a gambler that he has been able to hide from his wife, despite a promise never to gamble again, and from his conservative employers. Caron is a trickster, he lies and deceives.

Jean: “So you live a lie”
Caron: “I have to, I won’t leave my wife and gambling is a compulsion. Now I play incognito.”

Caron invites Jean to accompany him to the casino for a Saturday outing at the roulette table. To Jean who is reluctant to try it and compares it with the world of drugs (“If I became an addict I’d be lost”), Caron assures him that “Gambling and drugs are worlds apart. With gambling you keep your lucidity. It’s very stimulating.”

Jean’s life, we sense, has been much less than stimulating. He lives with his father who is a clock and watch-maker. In the father’s life, everything works like clock-work and there is not much space for Eros. The first vision we have of him is him sitting at his desk wearing a long work blouse, working on a watch with a magnifying glass. He has a strong work ethic. Money is not given freely to you, you work hard to get it and then you need to be careful with how you spend it. The only feminine presence in the apartment is that of the cleaning lady and cook Martha. She is an elderly woman who is wearing black clothes. We can assume that Jean’s mother is dead and that she comes to help the two men with the cleaning and cooking (“You just have to warm the soup”). She is on her way out and she asks the father for some money for shopping. The father is reluctant to give the money: (“I gave you 10 000 Francs last week”),  to which she replies somewhat sharply: “You try doing the shopping.”

Joined to the apartment, which has with very few adornments is the father’s shop. The only representation of the feminine is the reproduction of the Mona Lisa on the different glass-window squares (another feminine figure is difficult to recognize). For French people, Mona Lisa is probably the most famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci. This is the object of one first visit to Le Louvre; one has got to go and see the Mona Lisa. It is interesting to look at people standing in front of the painting in Le Louvre. They tend to stay for a long time in front of the painting (which is nowadays covered with a sheet of protective glass), they seem to be hypnotized by the painting. It embodies softness, beauty and a mysterious aura. If you ask a French person about Mona Lisa, the first answer that you will get is: “the enigmatic smile”. For sure, the feminine presence is very enigmatic and diffuse in the father’s world. Jean Fournier’s mother is only mentioned once by the father. He quotes her to stress his own aversion to gambling:

As your ma said: 12 fishermen, 12 hunters, 12 gamblers make 36 idlers. I’ve no need for an idler here.”

It is worth noting  the repetition of the number 12 here; it is representative of cosmic order, salvation, perfection or completion of a cycle. The group of twelve, twelve men to be more exact, is the most effective number of people to create a field of psychic understanding (1). The dozen expresses the unacceptable idleness, the laziness which is the shadow part of the father. Thus the father warns Jean:

If I hear you’re gambling, you can pack up and go.”

Jean doesn’t listen to his father’s warning and goes to the Enghien casino. Enghien is a small town, in the northern suburb of Paris (situated 5 minutes walk from where I used to live). It is a town known for its thermal baths and cure. Many people visit Enghien to take advantage of  the thermal baths. This was the original reason why the casino was built. There were enough tourists going to Enghien for at least a week of treatment, people who were expected to have a lot of idle time and to occupy their time with some casino outings. Enghien thus became famous for its casino and its horse races, another form of gambling.

Jean and Caron are greeted by  two clerks, dressed in black suits, who give them a gambling card. The tone is respectful and polite. In sharp contrast is the first appearance of Jacqueline, an agitated woman whose first words are: “Thieves, all of you. I’ll make a scandal. I’ll have the place closed down”

She is depicted, not in her own terms, but as “the wife of an industrialist” , “a big gambler” and a trickster, who tried to rob the bank twice. As a result, she is thrown out of the casino and will not be allowed in the casino anymore. Jean and Caron enter the gambling rooms. They both stand around a big oval table and observe. Caron initiates Jean to the mysteries of the game. The camera lingers on the table as Caron explains the rules of the game. But although Caron seems to be the initiator, the one who knows about the game, he then turns around and asks Jean: “What should I choose?”. Jean represents a new, innocent and unspoilt energy, and Caron wants to take advantage of Jean’s beginner’s luck. The number 13 has just come out (it will come out twice in the whole movie) but Jean advises Caron to play it again. This is playing against the odds; gamblers “know” that if a number has just come out, it is not likely to come out again right after. The scene is interesting in different aspects: the two men have their attention riveted on the roulette. The camera is on the mandala-shaped roulette in motion, there is nothing else than the noise of the ball on the roulette, it seems to take forever to come to a standstill. The camera zooms on Caron smoking, visibly tensed. Time is suspended. The scene will be repeated many times in the movie with some variants. When the number 13 doesn’t come out, Caron accuses Jean of being unlucky and says: “You chose a bad number.” This is a subject that will be explored further along in this paper but already we can say that the underlying belief is that there is such a thing as a “good” or “bad” number. Luck, which Caron is so eager to bestow on Jean, consists in being able to find the “good” number. And what could be more loaded with meaning than the number 13?

Although it was originally a holy number, imbued with numinosity, which therefore brought luck, it also took on the symbol of unfortunate events, death, destruction and misfortune. So betting on number 13 is betting on a highly charged number evocative of paradoxes.

Nevertheless, Jean bets again on number 13 and starts to win. Jean accumulates 10 000 and 50 000 Francs plates, the two men smile at one another. The vibrant and highly structured music of Michel Legrand accompanies the scene. Jean seems instinctively well suited to this game of chance, intuitively sensing, not only the winning numbers, but perhaps more importantly, when his luck is about to turn and when he should walk away from the table. He walks away with 480 000 Francs, “6 months ‘s pay in under an hour”- although he feels uneasy about it, thinks he doesn’t deserve it, and that he almost stole the money

It is the money that will act as a departing point from the world of the father. He throws it on the table in front of his father to show him that he did win at gambling and that he can pay for his own expenses. The money symbolically helps him to part from the father.  He holds his ground against the wishes of the father. As a mild-mannered family man, Jean has always gone to Beaugency to visit his family, (his room has already “been prepared for him”) and that is where he has gone every single summer of his life. This time though, it will be different, he wants to go on a trip of his own, he wants to follow Caron’s advice and go to the Riviera (South coast of France) where people live to gamble.” The father’s warning is clear; he doesn’t want to be responsible for Jean’s possible debts and won’t have a gambler in his home.

The conflict is clear:

The father: “Go away!
Jean: “Don’t say it twice!
The father: “Go away”

The door closes and Jean is on the train to Nice.

Meeting Jacqueline on the Bay of the Angels.

Jean arrives in Nice and rents a hotel room in “Hotel des Mimosas”. The room is barren, there are no paintings or adornments on the walls. Jean puts the suitcase on a chest of drawers, flanked by two chairs. Apart from a big “armoire”, the room is very plain. He puts part of his money in his wallet and leaves some in his suitcase, something that will turn out to be a good decision. He asks the lady of the hotel for directions for the casino. As a result, the lady asks him to pay a week in advance, as security. This is a town where people gamble and the risk is thus clearly stated. Jean walks towards the casino on the sun-drenched promenade. The music has shifted to a calmer and lighter melody played on the cittern. As Jean approaches the casino, he hesitates, paces back and forth and finally goes in, although he looks back at the casino warden. It is the first time that he enters a casino on his own. There is nobody around him. He enters a long hall with reflecting mirrors on the right side. As he walks, his image is reflected 10 times, split and scattered into multiple representations. Does it announce a split in the persona? A change in how he is perceived and how he perceives himself? His habitual image is changed, cast in different reflections. This very device will be used at the end of the movie in a much more dramatic fashion. Jean buys a card for a month (although he told the hotel he would only stay for 2 weeks) and walks into the gambling room. The atmosphere is quiet, there are not too many people. Jean first plays number 13 again, he doesn’t look at the roulette, number 13 doesn’t come out.

The camera pans to an oval table and focuses on an elegant blond woman who is sitting at the table, smoking a cigarette. She plays number 17 and so does he; they exchange a look. Then Jean plays number 3 and so does she. Number 3 comes out, she smiles at him. Jean sits near her, she thanks him. Despite the fact that Jean tells her that it is only luck, she insists “What do you recommend?” Jean answers: “Number 17 is bound to come out”.

And it does. They sit side by side, Jean in black and her in white,contrasting in style and color. This is the beginning of a winning streak. No words are uttered, we see them win over and over and the only sound is that of M. Legrand’s music. I find it interesting to look at the music on a symbolic level. I “lifted up” some of the music from the soundtrack and I have included the score (see Appendix). A very simple and logical pattern is reproduced over and over, starting on different notes. It is accompanied by strong rhythmic chords, played strongly and relentlessly. The impression created is one of a compulsive and frenetic repetition that could go on forever. What better way to describe an addiction? Jacques Demy, the director, uses that particular music to comment on their gambling; he uses a more lyrical melody to underline their romance.

Jean, one more time, knows when to stop: “Let’s go before we lose”. They go out and this is his opportunity for getting acquainted with the new female character. Her name is Jacqueline (Jacquie) Desmaitre, which, she stresses, is spelled in one word. Had it been written in two words (De Maistre, or De Maître), it would have meant “of a master”, “coming from a master”, “being the master of one’s own life”. Does Jacqueline Desmaitre appear to be the master of her own life? She appears like a maiden. She is light, bubbly, carefree. She suddenly runs to the ice-cream vendor like a child, can’t really make up her mind as to the flavor of the ice-cream which she will soon toss away in the garbage because she did not really want it anyway. She doesn’t seem to care about money. The day before she had lost all her money and jewels, including a “pair of pretty diamond earrings” (“at times like this, you don’t think!) and she had only the money for her return train ticket to Paris but just before buying the ticket, she says:”I got the urge …came back to the casino almost against my will …I hoped to make up my losses.”

She gambled and lost; pretty soon the money remaining only allowed her to go to the nearest town rather than back to Paris. She was about to play her last chip when Jean came in and played the winning number 3. Jean is cast in the role of the savior animus, the one who is calm, advises her well and is responsible for the change in luck.  (Number 3 symbolism) Jacquie’s relationship to time also belongs to the realm of the archetypal eternal child; the puella She has no concept of time (a typical thing for a gambler), she just realizes that she “forgot”to eat for the last two days, asks Jean for the time because her watch has stopped (at 3pm!) and she will finally take her watch off toward the end of the movie. Jacquie lives for the present moment and the pleasures that it can deliver; when she wins at the casino in Nice, she spends it all on sensual things. They have a sumptuous meal at the terrace of a restaurant, with champagne; a sensual tango music played by a live orchestra accompanies their dinner and she asks Jean to “indulge her with a dance”. When she wins the second time (4.2 million Francs), she convinces Jean to go to Monte-Carlo and “live the high life”, she wants them to buy an expensive car (1.2 million Francs), elegant clothes that they will wear at the casino and she insists they rent the most expensive suite in the hotel, overlooking the sea. (“Look, Jean, it’s magnificent! I am happy!”) Her energy is the energy of the coquette, the courtesan. I find it interesting that female gamblers have often been described as coquettish women, lured by the aura of money and its benefits. In Antoine Francois Prevost’s novel Manon Lescaut (1753), Manon is lured away from her real love by the promise of jewels, beautiful outings and the high life which Jacquie Desmaitre mentions. She is arrested in a gambling house .These are some of the words sang by Manon in Massenet’s homonymous opera:.

I’ll consent, seeing that I’m so good,
To let you gaze upon my charming person!
I go everywhere,
the equal of any sovereign;
people bow, they kiss my hand
because I am a queen by my lovely looks.
I am queen.
My horses race me about;
seeing the boldness of my life highly placed
people come forward with their hats off;
I am beautiful, I am happy!
All around me everything should flower.
I go to everything that attracts me.
And if ever Manon should die, she would die,
my friends, in a burst of laughter.
Ha. ha, ha….

Obey when their voices are calling,
beckoning us to tender loves,
always, always, always;
as long as you are beautiful, use up
your days without counting them, all of your days!
Let’s take full advantage of youth,
days that spring provides,
let’s love, laugh, and sing without stopping,
while we’re still only twenty!

Even the most faithful heart, alas,
forgets love in a day…
And youth, spreading its wings to
fly away, disappears, never to return.
Let’s take full advantage of our youth,
the springtime season, alas, is very short!
Let’s love, sing and laugh without stopping,
we won’t be twenty forever!


Jacquie could utter these very same words:

I’ll consent, seeing that I’m so good,
To let you gaze upon my charming person

She enjoys the power of her attraction on Jean. She is a very sensual woman, a “femme fatale”, slim and very elegantly dressed. She only wears clothes from Haute Couture designer Pierre Cardin and the clothes are only back and white to create a sharp contrast with other people. She is very classy. She is also a typical seductress, her clothes have a seducing quality whether it is the white wasp-waisted corset, the long close fitting black evening dress and the black feather boa or the suit and hats that she purchases before going to Monte Carlo. We see her reaching for the make-up kit several times and powder her nose as she speaks to Jean. On one instance, the sun sparkles in the circular mirror of the powder-box and creates a mandala-like reflection on her face, thus adding to the seduction. Her peroxide-blond hair, which she often tosses in a carefree manner, is in sharp contrast with her black eyelashes and eyebrows and stresses the unnatural aspect of the hair. Jeanne Moreau, the actress, explains that the director wanted her seductive allure to be reminiscent of the great seductresses of the movies such as Carole Lombard. We only need to look at the way that Jacquie walks towards Jean in her close-fitting black dress to be convinced. Jean is first amused by her and very quickly is taken by that seductive anima figure. He is visibly giddy with pleasure as she introduces him to a world unknown to him: “All this is new to me. I thought such a lifestyle no longer existed…that it only existed in the movies and certain American novels.” Jacquie looks unreal, like “a character in a novel.” She is like Manon: “a queen by (her) lovely looks.” Like Manon, she believes that “as long as you are beautiful, use up your days without counting them, all of your days”. Her “Look at it Jean! This is magnificent! I am happy!” in the suite in Monte Carlo is reminiscent of Manon’s “I am beautiful, I am happy! All around me everything should flower. I go to everything that attracts me”

The slut. “For a chip you’d walk the streets”

Jacqueline goes to everything that attracts her in a very impulsive way, her “horses race (her) about.” It is a world of quick and spontaneous actions; she is very voluble and she speaks fast. Jacques Demy insisted that the actress would deliver the text exactly as written with as fast a delivery as was possible. He would often ask her to speak faster so that the impulsive and compulsive nature of the heroine would appear clearly. That impulsive nature is what leads to her compulsive gambling. She has been gambling for a long time. Why?, asks Jean. “The happiness gambling gives me can’t be compared to any other. When married I gambled in secret…I have always been passionate…Pierre became jealous of my passion….He begged me to stop, I couldn’t. It wasn’t for money, Pierre is very wealthy”. She is now divorced and the mother of a little boy, aged 3, called Michou. But she rarely sees him, she gave her rights away to her husband and we do not get the sense of a maternal presence. She actually states: “I am left with nothing, ….I’ve got the feeling that I gambled him away” We will progressively get the sense that Jacqueline’s world is “une fuite en avant” and that gambling masks sadness, loneliness, and anguish over the passing of time. It is the same anguish that befalls Manon. “And youth, spreading its wings to fly away, disappears, never to return. Let’s take full advantage of our youth, the springtime season, alas, is very short! Let’s love, sing and laugh without stopping, we won’t be twenty forever!” Jacqueline doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. She is lost in time and space. She doesn’t want to face reality.

The Sioux on the ceiling of the hotel room

She suddenly decides to go back to the casino. Her intuition , the “feeling” that luck is with her, carries her forward, she is propelled by her impulse. “I don’t know why, but I feel my luck’s come back…If I went to the casino now I know I’d win every time…You must never let luck pass by”. Jean, usually cautious, follows her. He asks ironically: “What does luck say?”

Luck does seem to play a trick on them. She wants to play number 3 and he wants to play number 5, so she plays numbers 3 and 5; the two numbers do come out but in a different way: number 35 come out! “I am done. It didn’t work. But we’ll win. I can feel it” She is not done and begs Jean to lend her the 30 000 Francs that he has kept. “I must win. I am broke. I admit I was imprudent…I will play 23. I am sure to win.” He refuses and “luck has it” that number 23 does come out. Jean then lends her the money that she bets on number 17. She loses everything. She grabs him and they go. “What a dope I am. I get had every time. I’ll never gamble again. Gambling is stupid. I behaved like a lunatic. I am furious.” Jean, one more time, acts as her savior, he offers to pay for her hotel room. They arrive at the hotel in the middle of the night but there is nobody at the desk. They spend the night in Jean’s hotel room. She hangs up her black dress (a way of taking possession of the room?). Jean is lying on the bed and she is sitting in the armchair; at first there is no particular relatedness between them but gradually things change. Jacqueline admits that she indeed was at the Enghien casino and is even ready to explain why she was kicked out but Jean stops her. She looks at the ceiling and “sees” the Sioux’s head. She alone sees it, Jean doesn’t. She projects the head of an American Indian on the ceiling. What does Jacqueline know about the American Indians? Jacqueline probably never went to America; she would have spent the money for the trip before she reached the first station or airport! How is the Sioux culture perceived in France’s collective consciousness?

It was my feeling that there was not much differentiation in the French culture regarding the Sioux or American Indian culture and I decided to conduct a little experiment. I made a few phone calls to French people, especially to people of Jacques Demy’s generation (my parents and their friends) and asked them what was their association with the word “Sioux”. The answers were vague: people sometimes alluded to the cowboy movies and the wild west but they mainly referred to the culture of the Navaho and their sand paintings. Excerpts of the conversations went as such: “Well, I don’t know…oh, you remember that exhibition of the sand paintings, it was so beautiful…but they destroyed them in the end…what a shame…we couldn’t keep them…I wish I could have bought a postcard of them…It was hypnotizing to see them do it…It was like being in church.”

Jung describes those paintings as mandalas or “magic circles”, he writes: “Mandalas of this sort occur as sand paintings in the religious ceremonies of the Pueblo and Navaho Indians” (vol 13, 31) and he gives an illustration of one of those mandalas in volume 12, illustration 110. (see illustration # ?). These different testimonies attest to the numinosity of these sand paintings and their psychic hold on the observer. The particular exhibit that people mentioned to me over and over again was still very powerful in the collective psyche. A similar experience is described by Joseph Campbell in one of his lectures: Transformations of myth through time : “At the museum of Modern Art in New York, some years ago, a team of Navaho singers came to show sand paintings and how they were made, and it was marvelous to watch these men take colored sand in their hands and with great precision prepare these marvelous paintings. When they would prepare them, they would always leave out one detail. Now, when they were given to artists, to copy and then store in that Museum of the Navaho Art, something will be left out. That is to protect those who are dealing with the painting from its power. They are not supposed to have that power turned on”(4)

I researched the sand paintings and I was struck as to how they have the same mandala-shape as the roulette, which name is French and means “small wheel”. (see color illustrations). Jacques Demy provides us with numerous close-ups on the roulette table. The roulette, built in beautiful wood,  is central to the table,and numbers are on each side. (see illustration #?). The design is such that the lines converge towards the center of the roulette where the pivot resides. Everyone is attentive to the roulette; the croupier spins a wheel in one direction, then spins a ball (other circular symbol) in the opposite direction around the tilted circular surface running around the circumference of the wheel; all eyes follow the ball which will eventually fall onto the wheel and into one of the 37 colored and numbered slots(?). On numerous occasions in the movie, the only noise is the one of the ball rolling on the circular surface; it seems as if everyone is holding one’s breath, and tension is felt and seen in the number of cigarettes that Jacquie smokes! Jacqueline also carries a miniature roulette in her suitcase and constantly plays in her hotel room or wherever she might be. The symbol is ever present to her. Could we say that, on an unconscious level, she is in touch with the numinosity of the mandala? Jung writes: “As a rule a mandala occurs in conditions of psychic dissociation or disorientation…or in adults who, as the result of a neurosis and its treatment, are confronted with the problem of opposites in human nature and are consequently disoriented…” (9, 714) Jacqueline does seem disoriented. She does not seem to belong anywhere (“Here or Paris, what’s the difference? You have to be somewhere. Nobody is waiting for me there.”) She seems to be constantly looking for something that escapes her. Jung goes on: “In such cases it is easy to see how the severe pattern imposed by a circular image of this kind compensates the disorder and confusion of the psychic state -namely, through the construction of a central point to which everything is related, or by a concentric arrangement of the disordered multiplicity and of contradictory and irreconcilable elements. This is evidently an attempt at self-healing on the part of Nature, which does not spring from conscious reflection but from an instinctive impulse.” (9, 714) Each time Jacqueline goes to the casino and plays roulette, she is in touch with the mandala, archetype of wholeness” (9, 715), each time she touches her miniature roulette she touches her individual mandala and: “…individual mandalas…express either the totality of the individual in his inner or outer experience of the world, or its essential point of reference. Their object is the self in contradistinction to the ego, which is only the point of reference for consciousness, whereas the self comprises the totality of the psyche altogether, i.e., conscious and unconscious.” (9, 717)

I believe that playing with the roulette is an unconscious attempt at self-healing although it is misdirected and leads her into problems. Shortly after she “sees” the Sioux’s head on the ceiling, Jacqueline throws herself in Jean’s arms, (the miniature roulette is still between them) and says: “Please give me the courage to leave tomorrow.”

She tries to leave and go back to Paris but does come back and meets Jean on the beach where he said he would be waiting for her. Jean reveals to Jacqueline that he works in a bank (“I give chips like here”) and that he was once engaged but got scared because he saw his life with no risks, no surprises, so he broke off his engagement. We sense that Jackie is providing the risk, surprise and passion that Jean was longing for. She doesn’t comment, except on the shape of the pebbles on the beach (is it a sign of a contact with the earth for the volatile Jackie?). Her mind is set on going back to the casino. When Jean says that he doesn’t want to gamble in the middle of the day, she is upset and leaves the beach. She cannot stand the look of sun-bathers: “The display of flabby flesh makes me sick anyway, I’d rather look at gamblers.”

From the sun-drenched coastline of the promenade, the camera takes us back to the dark interior space of the casino where Jacqueline’s seductive powers are at work. She flirts and plays roulette with a man. When Jean joins them at the table, the other man leaves, visibly upset. Jackie doesn’t care one way or the other. The only thing of interest is that Jean brings back good luck: she plays number 23 and wins big. Jean, who is developing a real attachment for Jacquie and who is visibly upset at her recent flirtation states: “Slut! Hustler! For a chip you’d walk the streets” Jean may have come to an important realization. For Jacqueline, nothing is more important than gambling. Her seductive powers are at the service of gambling. She wants Jean at her sides only because he is the agent of the winning streaks. She is moody and pouts, threatens to leave the table if he doesn’t smile; when he still doesn’t smile, she gets up and is about to walk away when he prevents her and apologizes. This demonstrates the power of the psychic hold of this anima figure over him. This is the second winning streak, he advises her on the numbers to play and they end of winning 4.2 millions Francs. She insists on going to Monte Carlo to go and gamble at the famous casino. They buy expensive clothes, a fast and elegant second-hand car and rent a suite at the Hotel de Paris. This paragraph repeats earlier material, it feels awkward to me. Suggest you check it.


The Religion of gambling

In the hotel suite, Jean is perplexed. He is obviously not used to this amount of luxury. He asks: “-Do you like the luxury? -Sometimes, it amuses me -But you gamble for money? -No, I don’t like money. You see what I do with it when I have it. If I loved money I wouldn’t squander it.” The last statement touches on an important point for gamblers. Money is not as important as the act of gambling and the numinosity which is attached to it. I am reminded of the words of Adolph Guggenbühl-Craig. Commenting on the business world he said: “When you deal with money you really know you have the right or wrong. You win or lose. If you are right, you have an elated feeling, a religious feeling that you
were on the right side, so much in touch with the Gods that you won. People who speculate don’t really deal with money as something that can buy things, they speculate because they think they can have more life essence with money…the business world is another example of thearchetypal quest for the Gods and for the soul”(5)

Gambling, for Jacqueline is nothing short of  an archetypal quest for the Gods. “The first time I entered the casino, I felt as if it was a church, I had the same emotion. I tell you gambling has become my religion…Gambling attracts me by…the mystery of numbers, chance. I often wondered whether God ruled over numbers.” It is a religion of numbers. The traditional mind does not admit of the operation of purechance, so numbers possess great importance and each number seems to possess an individuality. It is either a “good”, a “lucky”or a “bad”number, it holds a power. In the movie, some numbers are played over and over again. (see the appendix for a list of all numbers,roulette numbers as well as age, time or any other mention of numbers). Number 17 and 3 are mentioned or played seven times, number 13 three times, and number 5 and 23 twice. They are all odd numbers and there is a common belief that “there’s luck in odd numbers”. This is echoed by W. Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Act V, scene 1): “Good luck lies in odd numbers…They say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance or death”. Let us recall that numbers 17 and 3 start the winning streak in the casino in Nice. Number 17 was Jacques Demy’s “lucky number”. Agnes Varda, his wife, explains: “Jacques went to the casino for the first time and was fascinated by it. He bet on number 17 and won big but he realized how risky it was and how one might get caught in the passion.” Gertrude Jobes’ s Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbols states that number 17 is, “according to the mystics, a number which conditions or affects. A lucky number which rewards the righteous.” The number has the god-like power to reward the pure mortal and Jacqueline’s statement bears some truth: maybe God does rule over numbers. In some tradition, such as the Fulani tradition, numbers are the bait which attracts the mysterious. So one needs to handle numbers with care since they conceal a hidden power. It has the power to make you win or lose. You either have a connection to the number or you don’t. If you do, you have mana, that extraordinary and compelling supernatural power, that pervading vital force, “life essence”. The mana-personality, says Jung “is a dominant of the collective unconscious, the well-known archetype of the mighty man in the form of hero, chief, magician, medicine-man, saint, the ruler of men and spirits, the friend of God”(6)Jacqueline is the friend of God in the religion of gambling and the chip is the Eucharist: “one chip is enough to make me happy” But that “religion” excludes the others: “As for the rest…I don’t owe anyone anything. Why deny myself this passion? In whose name? I’m free.”

Jean reacts with anger to that statement and throws her against the wall: “What do I represent for you?. Am I nothing other than an object to you…Haven’t you got a heart?” Jacquie replies:  “We’re partners in a game. That’s all…I don’t want any misunderstandings between us. We mustn’t mix feelings to a situation…You want to know why I drag you behind me like a dog? You bring me luck like a lucky horseshoe.” Can Jacqueline really connect with another human being or is she drawn in by the gambling passion that devours everything? The outing in the Monte Carlo casino proves to be disastrous. She loses 900 000 Francs (“the croupier has the evil eye”)and Jean loses 700 000 Francs. On their way out, they bump into Caron, the friend who initiated Jean into gambling. He has just won a lot of money and stays in one of the most prestigious hotels in Cannes, “Le Carlton”. Jacqueline and Jean sit outside. Jacqueline asks Jean for some money. She goes to the slot machine, plays, loses first and then wins enough to drink another scotch. It seems as if there is no end to the downward trajectory. She is caught in the endless repetition of gambling. Jean, one more time, acts as the agent of change, he suggests they go back to Nice: “The Bay of the Angels brings us luck”

It will turn out not to be the case. They quarrel in the hotel room, Jean accuses Jacqueline of stealing, of being lazy. Projections are being withdrawn and the shadow comes to the foreground. Jacqueline states that she wants to go back to the casino, says that she could cheat like she did in Enghien, that she wants to “make eyes to the croupier.” This will turn out to be a very inefficient tactics. She does try to use her charm, smiles at the croupier who does see her and remains absolutely indifferent. This is an interesting moment where things shift. Jacqueline is unveiled. What used to work, what used to define her such as her charm, her seduction, her carefree attitude, are suddenly called into question. Despite the fact that she plays her “lucky number” (number 17), she loses. Jean , who smokes for the first time, has stated that it would be the last time that he would gamble. He “sees” Jacqueline as she is, light and shadow, he loves her and knows that she cheats and lies. She admits to her lying; Marie-Jo (is Marie-jo introduced earlier?) doesn’t owe her any money and her husband actually refuses to lend her any money. Jean acts as a catalyst for the unveiling of her shadow part. Jacqueline goes back to the hotel room, she has a headache, she takes off her watch and lies on the bed. She is crying: “At times I feel ashamed, I feel rotten inside. I fight it but it is stronger than me. I lie, I betray. I spoil everything. Jean consoles her, kisses her (“no, it’s not true”) and decides to write a letter to his Dad: “I’ll say: Dear Daddy, our quarrel grieved me a lot. Forgive me for having caused you pain” He adds: “See, I am no better than you” Does he mean that he too can lie and manipulate or is it a sincere desire to come back to the world of the father and leave the gambling world behind? He does write a letter to his father who sends him 50 000 Francs witha note: “You can come home any time you want. I won’t ask you questions.”

Jean offers her a different life. He has decided to go back to Paris, he believes they can be happy together. It is no accident that Jean has just bought such refreshing fruit as peaches, apricots and grapes. They have a round and sensual shape and one can bite into them with delight and suck onto their juices. This is a simple pleasure which contrasts with the “high life” that they have experienced. But Jacqueline does not want to follow him, she admits that she will never stop gambling. Jean leaves to go to the post office and collect the money order that his father sent him. She goes back to the casino despite his warning: “There’ll be no end to this” Jean comes back to the hotel room. She is gone. He runs to the casino where she is playing: “You are making me lose. Go away” He does go away. Everything goes very quickly: she turns around, he is gone. She calls his name and runs after him. As she is running, her image is split numerous times in the mirrors of the entrance hall of the casino, in the same way that Jean’s image was split when he entered that very same casino. One article on Baie des Anges states: “In the end, it is the couple’s abrupt disconnection from this empty, self-destructive cycle that is captured in the indelible shot of Jackie’s fleeting, fractured images as she runs past a series of mirrored wall tiles in a casino: a consciously dissociative and systematic fragmentation of destructive passions in the face of redemptive love and renewed, existential purpose” Strictly Film School Article.



They exit the casino together, walking into the sun-drenched promenade, Jean’s arm around Jacqueline’s shoulders. We are led to believe that Jacqueline is “cured” from her addiction, that love saved her and that she will now live happily ever after with Jean. Really? I doubt it. I find this ending extremely weak and highly unrealistic. I am willing to bet (!) that she will be back in Enghien casino within a few months. So why is this ending necessary? Is it because of a  human addiction to stories with happy endings? Or is it because of a highly charged content; the gambling addiction? Gambling in the sixties was still a very tabooed subject. Movies depicting women gamblers had been a rare occurrence and it might have been important for a society in the sixties to believe in the redemptive power of love in an addiction.

“The gambling passion devours everything. I wanted to lay bare the workings of that passion … I’ve always been afraid of sinking into debauchery”, says Jacques Demy.

It is then no wonder that Jacqueline (Jacques Demy ?) doesn’t sink into debauchery and walks in the light of the sun-drenched street after having spent so much time in the dark interior spaces of the casinos. But is it the promise of a real transformation of just one more of her impulses?  I am not denying that Jacqueline has been transformed by her encounter with Jean. Despite what she says of him, Jean is more than a dog that she carries for good luck; he is the one who mirrors her and is the witness of her self-discovery. Her collapse on the bed in the hotel room in Nice is the testimony of her self-awareness and honesty but it doesn’t present her from going back to the casino the following day. In terms of character development the movie doesn’t offer a vision of Jacqueline progressively falling in love with Jean. Jean’s journey seems more plausible. He needed to leave the father’s world to live his life, he needed to have a taste of a more vibrant and risky life, to get into the world and be reckless. But once this is done, it is no surprise that he would want to go back to a safe haven where money would come  in the form of a regular pay-check, probably still at the bank.

The movie leaves us with the idyllic vision of romantic love; they stay together. On a symbolic level, what does that mean? Jean’s encounter with Jacqueline was a necessary one in terms of self development. His anima figure brought him vibrancy, vitality and a life energy that was missing. Jacqueline acted as the the revealing agent of a life that was yet unlived and needed to be lived. On the other hand, Jean, Jacqueline’s “savior animus”, was the revealing agent of her shadow and the possibility of another life. They acted  as catalysts for each other,  revealed the hidden and unconscious life to the other and are thus instrumental in each other’s individuation process.