Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne

Screening on Film
Directed by Robert Bresson.
With Paul Bernard, Maria Casarès, Elina Labourdette.
France, 1945, 35mm, black & white, 95 min.
French with English subtitles.

Based on a story from Diderot’s Jacques le fataliste, Bresson’s film is arguably one of the great curiosities of the Vichy era. Updating the 18th century tale to a contemporary setting, Bresson, using dialogue scripted by Jean Cocteau, resolves the melodramatic narrative in a number of surprising plot twists. A woman scorned takes revenge by befriending a former prostitute and arranging for her to marry her aristocratic ex-lover. Eschewing the minimalism for which Bresson’s later works came to be known, the film employs bravura camera movements and stylized costumes and set design. Yet despite these flourishes, the work is unmistakably Bressonian in its exploration of the darker side of human nature, a theme particularly evident in the reserved performance of Maria Casarès as the quietly vengeful socialite.

Part of film series

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Serge Daney:
L’Homme cinéma

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Les Années Noires: French Film During the Occupation, Part 2

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The Complete Robert Bresson