For years now, people have been hyping this one, telling me it’s one of the greatest films ever made and Bresson is one of the greatest directors. So, I finally saw this, and this was my first Bresson film, and I hated it. This film fucking sucked. And before somebody says “Go back to your Star Wars films!”, I want to make it clear that I love art film and I don’t mind slower paced films, 2001, The Master, Le Plaisir, Last Year at Marienbad and Walkabout all belong in my top 20 and I would hardly call those “fast paced”. So it’s not like I didn’t like this film because I’m not used to watching films like this, I grew up watching films like this! But this film sucked ass, and I’m going to explain why. This isn’t going to be a standard review, because I just couldn’t.
Nadine Nortier plays the lead, Mouchette, and she is extremely boring. She’s so goddamn bland, she has no personality aside throwing mud into the faces of other girls and being sad (I guess?). I have no idea where people are coming from when talking about her performance as “heart-breaking” or even emotional, I didn’t see any of that. Bresson is known for using amateur actors, and sure that’s a nice idea, but it also means you’re going to hire some terrible actors, they’r not amateurs for no reason. And the rest of the cast was as bland and terrible as she was, the guy who rapes her is trying to be drunk, but I didn’t even realize he should be drunk before he said he is, that’s how bad he was.
There isn’t a lot of talking in this movie, it’s to the point of making it stylized. However, it’s one of the things Bresson gets wrong completely. If you’re going to do something as stylized as that, yet trying to pass it off as real world, well, it’s not going to work. There are two directors that came to my mind, who may or may not have been influenced by this, but did it better: Jean-Pierre Melville and the greatest Finnish director of all time Aki Kaurismäki. The films of both directors are known for their sparing use of dialog, but they know how to make it work, they have never made “realistic films”. Melville’s movies have always been fantasy like, at times they were ridiculously naive and fantastic, because he made homages to the films he loved (American film-noirs), but he stylized the shit out of them. And when he made a more realistic movie, like Army of Shadows, he played by real world rules, it wasn’t stylized, it was gritty and ugly and people talked normally. And Kaurismäki has never made “real world” films, he’s made extreme realism, which is a term I just made up, meaning his films are something where we can mistakenly say that it’s like real world, but once we look at it for a while, notice nothing in it makes any sense in the real world. Nobody talks like his characters do, nobody acts like them, but he always gives us the world where these characters would and it makes sense.
Those directors created worlds where sparing dialog works, but Bresson doesn’t create a world, which is fine if you’re going to play by real world rules, but he doesn’t. Nobody talks, when they should be talking, people do things nobody would unless they’r retarded, it’s like Bresson is trying to both create a world but is so lazy he stops mid-way and in my mind, it fucks the movie up. The world should be realistic, but it isn’t, and it left me cold. I have no idea where Bresson was going with this film, I didn’t see anything he was trying to say with this film, it felt like an empty film. I’ve always said that I think that Godard is a self-indulgent asshole, but at least he was always trying to say something (I guess?), but I didn’t see what Bresson was trying to say with his boring, overly slow paced story? Was he trying to make us feel apathy in the rape scene because he didn’t develop the character at all? Maybe, but it seems like a lazy cop out. I don’t buy it, feels like he just didn’t know how to develop a character, you could have made it really interesting by showing that maybe Mouchette isn’t a very likable person, make her terrible, so the apathy in the rape scene would have been so much more interesting as we, the audience, wouldn’t know what to feel. Also, during the rape scene (which is terrible directed), she puts her arm on his back, showing she wants him, now that’s interesting, but since we know basically nothing about the character, I don’t what to say about it, every time it was beginning to get somewhat interesting, it killed itself because there was no character, they were just made out of cardboard.