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Man-woman relationships -- France -- Drama, Prostitutes -- France -- Drama, Revenge -- Drama

Les dames du Bois de Boulogne

(The Ladies of the Bois de Boulogne)

Imported 35mm Print

One of Robert Bresson’s most incandescent works.

Senses of Cinema

Maria Casarès, Elena Labourdette, Lucienne Bogaert, Paul Bernard,

Bresson’s most accessible work (on the surface) updates an episode in an eighteenth-century novel by Diderot to a contemporary Paris setting. It concerns a beautiful woman, Hélène (Maria Casarès in her first starring role), who takes revenge on her ex-lover by luring him into marriage with a prostitute. The first step in her plot is to provide the young woman, Agnès, and her mother with shelter and privacy far away from Agnès’s dance-hall clientele. Hélène then arranges the meeting, and the rest follows of its own accord. Only the result is something she had not predicted. It is in contemporizing the story, and in Jean Cocteau’s dialogue, that Bresson takes his first steps in the abstraction necessary to create a drama of love’s triumph. What some have called his “distanced” approach is, rather, a distillation of passions otherwise inexpressible.

Judy Bloch