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Criterion Press Release: Mouchette (Blu-ray) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

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Robert Bresson plumbs great reservoirs of feeling with Mouchette, one of the most searing portraits of human desperation ever put on film. With a dying mother, an absent, alcoholic father, and a baby brother in need of care, the teenage Mouchette seeks solace and respite from her circumstances in the nature of the French countryside and daily routine. Bresson deploys his trademark minimalist style to heartbreaking effect in this essential work of French filmmaking, a hugely empathetic drama that elevates its trapped protagonist into one of the cinema’s most memorable tragic figures.

FILM INFO
  • Robert Bresson
  • France
  • 1967
  • 81 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.66:1
  • French
  • Spine #363
SPECIAL FEATURES
  • Blu-ray: New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • DVD: Restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Audio commentary from 2006 by film scholar, critic, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
  • Au hasard Bresson, a 1967 documentary by Theodor Kotulla, featuring director Robert Bresson on the set of Mouchette
  • Segment of a 1967 episode of the French television series Cinéma, featuring on-set interviews with Bresson and actors Nadine Nortier and Jean-Claude Guilbert
  • Original theatrical trailer, cut by Jean-Luc Godard
  • PLUS: An essay by critic and poet Robert Polito
Cover by Sarah Habibi

December 8, 2020
 

Ronald Epstein

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titch

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Is this a candidate for the most miserable and hopeless film ever made? I'm quite baffled by all the positive reviews - I found this unengaging and absolutely not "spiritually uplifting" or redemptive. It was clumsily structured and the 81 minutes really dragged. I didn't find the acting particularly good either (perhaps not surprising, since no-one in the film was a professional actor) - but hardly "naturalistic". Lovely transfer though.
 
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lark144

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Is this a candidate for the most miserable and hopeless film ever made? I'm quite baffled by all the positive reviews - I found this unengaging and absolutely not "spiritually uplifting" or redemptive. It was clumsily structured and the 81 minutes really dragged. I didn't find the acting particularly good either (perhaps not surprising, since no-one in the film was a professional actor) - but hardly "naturalistic". Lovely transfer though.
The first time I saw this film--I guess close to 50 years now--I felt the same way you did. I had no interest in ever seeing it again, until about 10 years ago, when someone I was very close to loved the film so much I decided to give it another try. I was surprised how much the film had changed, though I guess it was really me. Now I consider "Mouchette" one of the greatest films ever made, and one of the most positive. Give it time.
 

titch

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The first time I saw this film--I guess close to 50 years now--I felt the same way you did. I had no interest in ever seeing it again, until about 10 years ago, when someone I was very close to loved the film so much I decided to give it another try. I was surprised how much the film had changed, though I guess it was really me. Now I consider "Mouchette" one of the greatest films ever made, and one of the most positive. Give it time.
Thanks for the encouragement! I have all five Criterion Bressons, but had only seen A Man Escaped, previous to Mouchette. I plan on seeing Au Hazard Balthazar later this week - am anticipating that it is going to be a similarly gruelling experience.
 

lark144

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Thanks for the encouragement! I have all five Criterion Bressons, but had only seen A Man Escaped, previous to Mouchette. I plan on seeing Au Hazard Balthazar later this week - am anticipating that it is going to be a similarly gruelling experience.
I saw AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR on a double bill with MOUCHETTE back in the 70's, and loved AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR, while MOUCHETTE made me run from the theater in a cloud of gloom. Not that AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR is light and lively. The subject matter is similar, though it's a beautiful, magisterial and profound work that is akin to listening to a Bach chorale. However, as one should start with Bach's Brandenburg Concerti before moving on to St. Matthew Passion, if you're just getting into Bresson, I would recommend watching LES DAMMES DU BOIS DU BOULOGNE, PICKPOCKET & FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER first. Then, if you like those films, you can move on to AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR.
 
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bujaki

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I saw AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR on a double bill with MOUCHETTE back in the 70's, and loved AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR, while MOUCHETTE made me run from the theater in a cloud of gloom. Not that AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR is light and lively. The subject matter is similar, though it's a beautiful, magisterial and profound work that is akin to listening to a Bach chorale. However, as one should start with Bach's Brandenburg Concerti before moving on to St. Matthew Passion, if you're just getting into Bresson, I would recommend watching LES DAMMES DU BOIS DU BOULOGNE, PICKPOCKET & FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER first. Then, if you like those films, you can move on to AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR.
You left off A Man Escaped.
 

lark144

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You left off A Man Escaped.
Kevin wrote that he just saw "A Man Escaped".

I'm assuming he liked it.

But I think the three Bresson films I recommended are more accessible, with characters and narratives that are easier to identify with, and also essential in terms Bresson's body of work and cinematic vision.

I also happen to love all three, and it was my exposure to these films at an early age which made me want to see more films by Bresson.

Of course, everyone's taste is different, but I'm hoping Kevin agrees, since otherwise we seem to like a lot of the same films for the same reasons.
 

bujaki

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A minor correction to all about Balthazar: The correct spelling of the title is "Au hasard Balthazar".
I forget which Bresson film I first saw, but I have the feeling that it was A Man Escaped. Or maybe it was Journal of a Country Priest. It doesn't matter. I was hooked for life and I searched methodically for all his films. Except for a short he directed at the beginning of his career, I was able to view all his films; the most difficult to access was Angels of Sin. His body of work is remarkable.
 

lark144

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A minor correction to all about Balthazar: The correct spelling of the title is "Au hasard Balthazar".
I forget which Bresson film I first saw, but I have the feeling that it was A Man Escaped. Or maybe it was Journal of a Country Priest. It doesn't matter. I was hooked for life and I searched methodically for all his films. Except for a short he directed at the beginning of his career, I was able to view all his films; the most difficult to access was Angels of Sin. His body of work is remarkable.
Jose, I saw "Angels of Sin" at MOMA during the Bresson retrospective in '99. Amazing film. By reducing what his actors say and do, in that frame that seems both constricting and expansive, every glance, as well as each gesture, is inundated with spirituality and also sensuality. The two are intertwined. And then there's that light, severe yet pervasive, that seems unique to the films of Bresson.

My first Bresson film was "Les Dammes Du Bois Du Boulogne" at Anthology Film Archives without subtitles when they were on Wooster Street in the early 70's. I was swept away on waves of pure emotion. The images were so primal, they seemed to come from my soul. There's a G.M. Hopkins poem, "My heart in hiding stirred for a bird." Well, my heart stirred for "Les Dammes Du Bois Du Boulogne." Truffaut wrote that by taking Cocteau's dialogue and recording it against the direct sound of windshield wipers, Bresson transformed that modern language into the alexandrines of Racine. And he was absolutely right. The words they speak seem to come from the distant past, as well as the distant future.

And then a few weeks later, I saw "Four Nights of a Dreamer" at the Art on 8th Street. I think I went to the 4 o'clock show, and ended up staying till midnight, I was so enthralled. And after that, like you, I saw every Bresson film I could.

Please excuse my bad habit of replacing s's with z's. Sometimes I can be tres barbare.
 

titch

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I saw AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR on a double bill with MOUCHETTE back in the 70's, and loved AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR, while MOUCHETTE made me run from the theater in a cloud of gloom. Not that AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR is light and lively. The subject matter is similar, though it's a beautiful, magisterial and profound work that is akin to listening to a Bach chorale. However, as one should start with Bach's Brandenburg Concerti before moving on to St. Matthew Passion, if you're just getting into Bresson, I would recommend watching LES DAMMES DU BOIS DU BOULOGNE, PICKPOCKET & FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER first. Then, if you like those films, you can move on to AU HAZARD BALTHAZAR.
Great to have insight from knowledgeable art-house fans! I only have the Criterion Bressons on blu-ray: L'Argent, Pickpocket, Au Hasard Balthazar (I also spelled it incorrectly, eagle-eyed Jose!) and A Man Escaped, in addition to Mouchette. I see that Artificial Eye released Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne last year, otherwise the other available restored Bressons seem only to be available on Japanese blu-rays: Lancelot du Lac, Four Nights Of A Dreamer, The Trial Of Joan Of Arc and Diary Of A Country Priest. My French is nowhere near good enough to see films without English subtitles!

It's great to discover classic films - Bresson is rated extremely highly by critics and I don't mind watching difficult ones - I obviously need to see a few more of Bresson's other works, before jumping in at the deep end, with Mouchette and Au Hasard Balthazar. I also find that I experience films differently on a second viewing. I have loads of foreign language Criterions and am now attempting a determined effort to make my way through the French section. So many masterpieces, so little time!

The main problem is that I usually see films together with friends and that most people in a group expect to be "entertained". So out come the action-adventures, the thrillers, the English language classics or romantic comedies! I only have a select few acquaintances who have the patience to sit through films that demand something from the viewer. These film experiences tend to be the most memorable and rewarding though. Two summers ago, my 20 year old nephew and his girlfriend from South Africa visited me. They were hoping to see some 4K spectacle, but I asked them whether they wouldn't like to try some art-house films instead. They had never seen any foreign language films previously, but as young adults, were open-minded to new experiences. We saw In The Mood For Love and The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant. They were suitably astonished and said that they had never previously seen films that affected them like that, and still remember the experience, long afterwards!
 

bujaki

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Jose, I saw "Angels of Sin" at MOMA during the Bresson retrospective in '99. Amazing film. By reducing what his actors say and do, in that frame that seems both constricting and expansive, every glance, as well as each gesture, is inundated with spirituality and also sensuality. The two are intertwined. And then there's that light, severe yet pervasive, that seems unique to the films of Bresson.

My first Bresson film was "Les Dammes Du Bois Du Boulogne" at Anthology Film Archives without subtitles when they were on Wooster Street in the early 70's. I was swept away on waves of pure emotion. The images were so primal, they seemed to come from my soul. There's a G.M. Hopkins poem, "My heart in hiding stirred for a bird." Well, my heart stirred for "Les Dammes Du Bois Du Boulogne." Truffaut wrote that by taking Cocteau's dialogue and recording it against the direct sound of windshield wipers, Bresson transformed that modern language into the alexandrines of Racine. And he was absolutely right. The words they speak seem to come from the distant past, as well as the distant future.

And then a few weeks later, I saw "Four Nights of a Dreamer" at the Art on 8th Street. I think I went to the 4 o'clock show, and ended up staying till midnight, I was so enthralled. And after that, like you, I saw every Bresson film I could.

Please excuse my bad habit of replacing s's with z's. Sometimes I can be tres barbare.
Alas, I left NYC in the summer of '88; therefore I missed the Bresson retrospective. Maria Casares is unforgettable if Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. My French is quite good and it's always a pleasure to listen to the dialogue, so finely written and so clearly enunciated.
 

lark144

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Great to have insight from knowledgeable art-house fans! I only have the Criterion Bressons on blu-ray: L'Argent, Pickpocket, Au Hasard Balthazar (I also spelled it incorrectly, eagle-eyed Jose!) and A Man Escaped, in addition to Mouchette. I see that Artificial Eye released Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne last year, otherwise the other available restored Bressons seem only to be available on Japanese blu-rays: Lancelot du Lac, Four Nights Of A Dreamer, The Trial Of Joan Of Arc and Diary Of A Country Priest. My French is nowhere near good enough to see films without English subtitles!

It's great to discover classic films - Bresson is rated extremely highly by critics and I don't mind watching difficult ones - I obviously need to see a few more of Bresson's other works, before jumping in at the deep end, with Mouchette and Au Hasard Balthazar. I also find that I experience films differently on a second viewing. I have loads of foreign language Criterions and am now attempting a determined effort to make my way through the French section. So many masterpieces, so little time!

The main problem is that I usually see films together with friends and that most people in a group expect to be "entertained". So out come the action-adventures, the thrillers, the English language classics or romantic comedies! I only have a select few acquaintances who have the patience to sit through films that demand something from the viewer. These film experiences tend to be the most memorable and rewarding though. Two summers ago, my 20 year old nephew and his girlfriend from South Africa visited me. They were hoping to see some 4K spectacle, but I asked them whether they wouldn't like to try some art-house films instead. They had never seen any foreign language films previously, but as young adults, were open-minded to new experiences. We saw In The Mood For Love and The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant. They were suitably astonished and said that they had never previously seen films that affected them like that, and still remember the experience, long afterwards!
Criterion released "The Diary of a Country Priest" on DVD a number of years ago, (with some excellent extras) which both Jose and I would encourage you to see as an essential Bresson. But watch "Les Dammes" & "Pickpocket" first.
Alas, I left NYC in the summer of '88; therefore I missed the Bresson retrospective. Maria Casares is unforgettable if Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. My French is quite good and it's always a pleasure to listen to the dialogue, so finely written and so clearly enunciated.
If you can understand French, "Les Dames" is better without subtitles. And Maria Casares is indeed extraordinary. She would have made a sublime Andromache.

Speaking of Bresson sans subtitles, I'm considering getting the Japanese Blu-Ray of "Lancelot du Lac". Does anyone on the board have a copy? What's the visual quality like?
 

bujaki

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Criterion released "The Diary of a Country Priest" on DVD a number of years ago, (with some excellent extras) which both Jose and I would encourage you to see as an essential Bresson. But watch "Les Dammes" & "Pickpocket" first.

If you can understand French, "Les Dames" is better without subtitles. And Maria Casares is indeed extraordinary. She would have made a sublime Andromache.

Speaking of Bresson sans subtitles, I'm considering getting the Japanese Blu-Ray of "Lancelot du Lac". Does anyone on the board have a copy? What's the visual quality like?
Maybe Casares played Andromache on stage... As far as Lancelot is concerned, I only have the ancient DVD, which I haven't even watched.
I know I can convert my keyboard to French and Spanish but it so complicated...and then I could actually write those accents correctly (as in Casares).
 

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Maybe Casares played Andromache on stage... As far as Lancelot is concerned, I only have the ancient DVD, which I haven't even watched.
I know I can convert my keyboard to French and Spanish but it so complicated...and then I could actually write those accents correctly (as in Casares).
I cheat and google it and then copy the text - and correct any issues with the fonts etc. ;)
 

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I've done that too, but that is also complicated. :)
Let's just say it's better to wish somebody "Happy Birthday" in Spanish WITH the tilde ~ as it means something entirely different without it ;).
 

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Maybe Casares played Andromache on stage... As far as Lancelot is concerned, I only have the ancient DVD, which I haven't even watched.
I know I can convert my keyboard to French and Spanish but it so complicated...and then I could actually write those accents correctly (as in Casares).
I don't know if Casares played Andromache on stage, but she is playing Andromache as a kind of negative image or echo of her character in "Les Dames". The thing about Casares (accent or not) Is I so identified her with the emotions and personality and style of the character she played in "Les Dames" that when I finally caught up with "Children of Paradise" years later, where she has the ingenue role, I thought it was a completely different person. I guess that's great acting. But I much prefer her in "Les dames".

If you're referring to that ancient New Yorker DVD of "Lancelot", I tried to watch it once, but there were so many digital artifacts and other anomalies that I gave up and gave it away. That's such a gorgeous film, which is really a big reason why it's so great, or rather, all the philospopical aspects come through the beauty of the images and the way they're composed and how they interact with the sound...and that DVD is so ugly, it's almost pointless watching it
 

bujaki

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I don't know if Casares played Andromache on stage, but she is playing Andromache as a kind of negative image or echo of her character in "Les Dames". The thing about Casares (accent or not) Is I so identified her with the emotions and personality and style of the character she played in "Les Dames" that when I finally caught up with "Children of Paradise" years later, where she has the ingenue role, I thought it was a completely different person. I guess that's great acting. But I much prefer her in "Les dames".

If you're referring to that ancient New Yorker DVD of "Lancelot", I tried to watch it once, but there were so many digital artifacts and other anomalies that I gave up and gave it away. That's such a gorgeous film, which is really a big reason why it's so great, or rather, all the philospopical aspects come through the beauty of the images and the way they're composed and how they interact with the sound...and that DVD is so ugly, it's almost pointless watching it
Yes, I do prefer Casares in Les dames to her ingenue role in Les enfants du paradis. But then, who has eyes for the ingenue when you have the great Arletty spinning her web around Jean-Baptiste and all the other men in the story (and me as well)?
And yes, I was referring to the New Yorker DVD release of Lancelot.
You majored in film; I majored in Comparative Literature: the Middle Ages. Hence my love for all things medieval, in all its manifestations.
And this touches upon Mouchette but tangentially. Vive Bresson!
 

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