Mouchette (1967) movie poster

(1967) dir. Robert Bresson
viewed: 08/30/06 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA

The first of two Robert Bresson films that played as a double feature at the Castro, Mouchette was suggested to be a “companion” film to Au hasard Balthazar (1966), which was released a year earlier, but played an hour and a half later.  So, I saw them out of order, I guess.  I actually had never seen any Bresson films before, so outside of some general information and specific comments from friends regarding the heart-breaking depressiveness of these two films, I didn’t go in with a lot of expectations…which is actually a good thing.

There is great beauty in this film, from it’s highly visual storytelling (many sequences occur without much if any dialgoue) to its beautiful, tragic heroine, Mouchette (Nadine Nortier), to the stunning final scene that plays over and over in my head, her strange playful suicide.

Reading up on Bresson, I understand him to have been a devout Catholic, whose films played out his specific interpretation of that essence, his sense of the world, his sense of existence, and experience.  For Mouchette, at least, compared to Balthazar, that aspect seems less predominant.  In fact, the one specifically religious scene has Mouchette stomping in mud before entering the church and then being violently shoved by her father into the building and then dousing herself somewhat oddly with the holy water.  It’s probably more to analyze than I feel like, to be honest.

My feeling for this film, though, was emotionally visceral.  Bresson’s attitude toward Mouchette is hard to describe, not entirely non-objective, not entirely objective.  In some ways, she seems a typical teenager in a horrible life of poverty and lack of human love.  Her one moment of happiness, the only time she smiles throughout the film is in the scene with the bumper cars, flirting with a young man.  Her strangely inspired passion for a would-be murderer seems out of desperation, rebellion, and fear.

Whereas it is perhaps easier to see some sense of “transcendence” in Au hasard Balthazar something beatific, which I can’t claim to understand completely, but can appreciate the peacefulness of the donkey’s death, Mouchette’s strange suicide, rolling down the hill toward the water, over and over until she plunges in, is like one of those weird, dreamlike visions that sink in and take hold, as impossible to utterly comprehend but resonate and reverberate throughout one’s soul.

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