Les dames du Bois de Boulogne [1945]

[Rambling jottings instead of a review. Must fix.]

29Feb12 – 8 – Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (Robert Bresson: 1945)

There’s something a bit too pat about LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE (1945) that puts me off. On the surface it’s a fantasy in which a wealthy society woman exacts revenge on her lover, whose affections for her have cooled, by tricking him into falling in love with and marrying a nightclub dancer/whore and then revealing the truth about his wife to him once the marriage has taken place, but beneath that it’s…well there’s that surface. I wouldn’t have guessed that Robert Bresson wrote the screenplay (from Diderot) and directed this; Cocteau’s dialogue isn’t awash in portentous, self-conscious Poetry but it didn’t strike me as anything particularly special, but then I’m not a French speaker so my opinion on that score is meaningless. Maria Casares (also spelled María Casares, Maria Casarès, and María Casarès; I guess she couldn’t decide) is really terrific as the vengeful Hélène, a cold, calculating villain in a severe couture black cape. And Casares has That Voice: a very stagey, actressy voice with a crick in it that I found irresistible. The other actors are good if not particularly outstanding. [2/29/12]

Robert Bresson on directing Maria Casares in LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE: “Because Les Dames was not a tragedy, she was worried at the beginning. To get courage, she used to drink a little glass of cognac before acting. When I chanced to discover this, I asked her to take a sedative instead, which she willingly did. Then things started to go better.”

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