Robert Bresson’s Une Femme Douce

Robert Bresson is one of my favorite film directors. While some of his films are available on DVD and Blu-ray (primarily from the Criterion Collection). I have only seen Une Femme Douce (1969) once and that would have been in the early 1970s but I still have strong memories of it. It has never been released on a US Blu-ray or DVD. New Yorker Films did have a VHS version. The entire film can be found online. It’s based on a Dostoevsky short story.

Bresson’s films never pander to the audience and are not fun to watch. He always addresses serious subjects like like faith and some of his characters commit suicide. He drains suspense – in A Man Escaped, you know from the title that the main character got out of prison. Bresson uses non-professional actors and the color palette in this, his first color film, very understated. Dominique Sanda, who starred in this film, went on to a successful film career.

Une Femme Douce explores the marriage between a woman who committed suicide and her husband. She commits suicide at the beginning of the film and her husband tries to figure out why. His narratives in voice overs don’t always match what you see on the screen in terms of the happiness of the marriage.

Bresson didn’t show things you know didn’t happen. The suicide is shown by a scarf falling slowly from a balcony to the ground and traffic stopping on the street below. You see this before you see the body. The first clip below shows this opening scene.

I have a French lobby card set I got on eBay and an 8×10 glossy I got at Cinemabilia in New York. I have attached photos of two of the cards and the picture.

Here’s an interview with Bresson from 1970. I remember reading it back then. The writer, Charles Thomas Samuels, later committed suicide. Une Femme Douce was Bresson’sA most recent film at the time of the interview.

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