R1 - America - Criterion Collection
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (13th February 2007).
The Film

Of all the French new wave filmmakers Robert Bresson is a complex beast to tackle. His work is very visual and metaphoric despite how minimalist it may appear on the outside. He uses framing and editing to propel one through the story even if the story has no plot, which is the case of "Mouchette". Some have called this his most accessible film, in many ways this may be true but the film is also deeply intricate in its simplicity.
"Mouchette" tells the story of a young teenage girl named Mouchette (Nadine Nortier. Mouchette lives a sad and lonely life, her mother is dieing and her father is an abusive drunk. She has no friends at school and spends her time caring for her otherwise poor family. One night when cutting through the woods she encounters Arsène (Jean-Claude Guilbert) who believes he's killed a man, Mathieu (Jean Vimenet) and uses Mouchette as an alibi. In a drunken furor he rapes the young girl, an event that only adds to the mounting tragedy that is Mouchette's life.
In his film's Bresson has always tried to achieve a stark realism, he does this with the use of non-actors as his cast and "Mouchette" is another example of that. His approach is very honest and as a result we see a true darkness to these characters and their situations. This combined with his use of the camera and framing help create the mood and tone of the film, Bresson camera appears to violate their space but knows when to back off, this makes for interestingly bleak wide shots and incredibly detailed close ups.
For a first time actor Nortier is perfectly suited as the title character, she brings a humble tenderness to the role that appears broken and sad, her portrayal is so convincing that Mouchette has been known as one of the most tragic figures in French cinema, this is echoed in the film's final moments as her *SPOILER: HIGHGLIGHT TO READ*death uncompromisingly parallels her life, sad and alone.
Bresson is a master of manipulation and he succeeds with this film on numerous occasions, he draws you into this world no matter how much you wish not to enter. The characters are presented in a manner that immediately can be related to despite the little information he provides at times. I was particularly impressed with the subtleties of his style, for example the final fifteen minutes of the film *SPOILER: HIGHGLIGHT TO READ*leading up to Mouchette's suicide a church bell rings throughout as if counting down to that moment.
Wretchedly poetic and totally engrossing "Mouchette" is an excellent film and easily one of Bresson's best, however it does demand your total emotional investment and for a film that is as bleak and as harsh as this one, that's a lot to ask for. It certainly is an acquired taste.


Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.66:1, this anamorphic transfer has been restored and significantly cleaned up for this release and while the majority of the print is sharp I did find it at time soft. The blacks and white levels are nicely balanced, however some of the night scenes were a little hard to make out. Film grain and some minor print damage can be seen sporadically but nothing that distracts. Overall it's a very good effort considering the age of the film.


The Criterion Collection presents the film with its original French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono sound track. Considering the nature of the film this 1.0 mono track does the trick and being its original soundtrack makes it all the better. The dialogue is clear and distortion free, I could not spot any problems associated with this track such as drop outs, hiss or pops. Aside from the lack of depth this mono track suits the film and is presented cleanly to the high level of quality that we are used to from The Criterion Collection.
Optional subtitles are included in English only. The subtitles are 16x9 friendly and are a nice size on-screen. The subtitles are easy to read and feature no grammatical or spelling errors and appear on-screen for long enough to read without having to stop and rewind.


The Criterion Collection have included a feature-length audio commentary, a documentary, a TV segment, the film's original theatrical trailer plus a booklet. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

An insightful audio commentary is presented on this film by film scholar, critic, and festival programmer Tony Rayns. Rayns provides an inside look into Bresson's cinematic style as he dissects each sot and scene presenting the film in a more accessible manner for newcomers to Bresson's work. He compares Bresson's style to conventional cinema and what make's his work stand out among the other French filmmakers of that era. Rayns provides an in-depth analysis of the characters and their motivations, story structure and techniques utilized by the filmmaker which include the cinematography and framing that captures motifs and ideas to bring sequences together. He comments on the various editing styles used in the film and how the yare used to evoke a sense of pace. Overall this is a terrific track that allows novices of the French film access to one of its most naturalistic filmmakers.

Next up is "Au Hasard Bresson" a documentary that runs for 31 minutes 12 seconds, this clip was produced in 1966 by German filmmaker Theodor Kotulla and focuses on the director as his crew visits the "Mouchette" set. We see some rare footage of the director at work that provides an insight into his method as well as an interview with Bresson as he describes what appeals to his sensibilities in regards to cinema.

Next is a TV segment from the cine-magazine "Travelling" the clip is entitled "Cinema: Travelling" this segment from a 1967 episode goes on a set visit as we see the cast and crew shoot scenes from "Mouchette", the clip also features interviews with director Robert Bresson as he discusses the use of adolescence in his films, his response to the critics calling his films 'cold' among other things. Also featured are interviews with actors Nadine Nortier and Jean-Claude Guilbert as they talk about working on a Bresson film.

Also featured on this disc is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 38 seconds and has been cut by filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.

Rounding out the extras is a booklet that features the essay "Girl, Interrupted" by Robert Polito.


The Film: B Video: B Audio: A- Extras: B+ Overall: B


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