LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE
Robert Bresson’s Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne deserves a few explanatory notes, if only because this brilliant work has been so widely and wildly vilified by so-called realistic criticism. Realism, as Harold Rosenberg has so sagely remarked, is but one of the 57 varieties of decoration. Yet, particularly where movies are concerned, the absurdly limited realism of the script girl and the shop girl is too often invoked at the expense of the artist’s meaning. Why, oh why, whines one local reviewer, does Maria wear long dresses in the afternoon? (This same reviewer is unperturbed by the transparent contrivance through which East German nuns are dumped pathetically in Arizona, where they can be saved with topical miraculousness by a Negro deus-ex-machina machinist out of Robinson Crusoe via Going My Way—but that is another story.)
A shot where the camera is fixed in one position while the action continues off-screen. It says life is messy and can not be contained by a camera. Beloved by Woody Allen and the dolly grips who can take the afternoon off.
Another interpretation I read: It says the world goes on without us. I think this take was from Andrew Sarris and he was referring to Robert Bresson. But I can’t find the specific reference…
“Bresson has been criticized on at least one occasion for showing a place a beat or two after the people have departed, thus fading out on geography rather than humanity. Far from being a flaw, this Bressonian mannerism expresses an attitude of man’s place in the universe. For Bresson, place precedes and transcends person, since the world was here before we came and will be here long after we are gone.”
Saw this at the Mayan last Friday. I thought it was quite good. Avant-garde movie. Greek myth type story transposed to current day. The overall tone, and the style of acting, sort of deadpan, were reminiscent, in a good way, of Bresson. Specifically Au Hasard Balthazar. Perhaps Balthazar was in mind after it played at Chez Artiste earlier this year.
Strong thumbs up for those in the mood for some antidote to the current Super-Hero stuff.
Fun post script -> There was an obstreperous moviegoer who was asked to leave. After the movie another patron was overheard speaking to a Mayan Employee, “This was my first time here and this was the worst experience I’ve ever had in the theater.” I don’t know if it was the movie or the ejected noisemaker that was her problem.