Une femme douce (rewatch)
Posted by martinteller on April 15, 2014
An unnamed woman (Dominique Sanda) leaps from her apartment window to her death. Her husband, a pawnbroker named Luc (Guy Frangin), reflects on their troubled marriage and tries to understand her suicide.
I’ve said before that I’m embarrassed by most of my old reviews. Take a gander at this gem from January 2004: “Good movie, very insightful.” That’s it. Okay, there’s another sentence about how I like Bresson, but concerning this specific film, that’s all I had to say. Wow. But the sad part is, I don’t have a whole lot more to say now. It is a “good movie”, especially if you like Bresson’s style. The stone-faced acting by non-professionals (though it would kick off a lengthy career for Sanda, including starring roles in films by De Sica, Demy and Bertolucci), the heightened sound design, the minimal dialogue, the symbolism, the attention to hands and feet, the small but meaningful gestures… it’s got all that good austere Bressonian stuff in it. He makes the transition to color nicely, with a palette that isn’t drab but doesn’t call too much attention to itself.
And the film is “very insightful”. The marriage of Luc and the woman is hasty and impulsive (although the time compression is so vague that we’re uncertain how long the courtship lasts), and in trouble from the start. Luc’s attention to matters of practicality is opposed to her more delicate and warm sensibility, as foreshadowed by a scene in which she sells him a plastic Jesus on a gold crucifix… he separates the figure from the valuable gold and hands it back to her. Luc tries to love, but to him she is a possession, and he never truly gives himself to her. But the blame doesn’t lie entirely on his shoulders… she’s prone to passive-aggressive dramatic gestures and bouts of depression. But it is clear she’s on the path closest to Bresson’s path, a yearning for kindness and temperance. Her gentleness makes her especially — and tragically — vulnerable to the emptiness of a loveless marriage. Bresson makes her soul-ache felt through the claustrophobia of Luc’s apartment, her isolation sealed when spite and jealousy compel him to relegate her to a separate bed.
Is Bresson saying that suicide is the appropriate response to such a scenario? I think not, but like the lead character in one of his previous films, it represents an inescapable inner torment. Rating: Very Good (84)