Archive for April 17th, 2013


© 2013 by James Clark

 The partnership of filmmaker, Robert Bresson, and artist-at-large, Jean Cocteau, on behalf of bringing to light (in 1944, during the darkness of the German Occupation of France) a scenario loosely based upon a novelistic reflection about intentional freedom and material determinism, by the eighteenth-century philosopher, Denis Diderot (an exponent of the Heraclitean notion of dynamics as the essence of matter), has often been noted as somehow significant. But it tends to be eclipsed by citing how different from one another these artists were (only, apparently, seeing fit to tolerate each other for the sake of subtly sticking it to the Nazis). The austerity of Bresson’s work subsequent to the offering in question, namely, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945), seems to settle it, in most minds, that this would be a chic aberration (with Cocteau’s screenplay the culprit), a cracking good melodrama, but bereft of the profundity of our auteur’s serious output. My response to this film wants to point out that, on the contrary, this honey of a performance design carries as deep and painful a sting as any of the more famous, iconic Bressonian marvels.

    The first point to be dealt with is the misconception that in some way Cocteau was a kind of flippant gadfly unworthy to be linked to such an unassuming, noble and devout artisan as Bresson. Though definitely not as prone to sackcloth and sacred music as Bresson, Cocteau’s productions were in line with the deadly métier he pursued as an enlisted soldier in World War I, namely, that of a stretcher-bearer. The zest of the full extent of his artistry would entail horrific catastrophe and danger every bit as sharp as that of Bresson. (more…)

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