Saturday, May 4, 2013
Les Dames Du Bois Boulogne. A-
Early Bresson doesn't amount to much in that by his third feature (Diary of a Country Priest) he had already pretty much set in stone how he was going to make movies. But still early Bresson does still mean Les Dames Du Bois Boulogne, a film that's quite different than anything else he ever made. For starters, he's using professional actors, including the famed French theater actress Maria Casares. Also, he's operating entirely within the modern city, as opposed to the rural towns in which he often set his later work (most notably Hasard Balthazar, Diary of a Country Priest, and Mouchette). Most importantly though is that this has a very distinct plot that the movie is built around. Typically with Bresson you have stories that can't be told, but only experienced. With this film, however, you could tell someone about it and they would get it. Anyone who's seen Bresson's later work probably can't quite understand what they are seeing even after multiple viewings. Les Dames, however, is a fairly easy picture to grasp and understand. Casares plays Helene, who learns her supposed true love decides he wants to look elsewhere for romance and plots revenge against him. The way she crafts her plot is reminiscent of some of the best Shakespeare plays in which characters construct elaborate plans of revenge. And because of that the film is fairly straightforward, yet no less thematically complex because of it. It's a film about our obsession with our own happiness, about serving others to really serve our own desires. I've stressed how different this is from Bresson's other work, but there is still a major similarity: he doesn't take sides with any one character. A broad theme running through his films is that things are complicated. He got that from the beginning.