Kevin B. Lee reviews “Une Femme Douche” for Cine-File Chicago

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In UNE FEMME DOUCE, his first color film, Robert Bresson’s formalist rigor belies a loose, searching quality that reflects his initial contentions not only with color but a new world, post-Paris ’68. His first urban film since PICKPOCKET is keenly attuned to the pulsing of city lights, the thrill of car screeches, and above all, the luminous skin of Dominique Sanda, who seems to embody the seething energy of a new generation. She’s the hapless wife of a controlling pawnbroker (Guy Frangin) whose penny-pinching and numb cycles through museums and evening shows allow Bresson to blow raspberries at the petty bourgeois. However, Bresson’s exacting direction of Sanda suggests a shared possessiveness between the two men; his stifling treatment triggers in Sanda electric impulses of resistance, eyes always fighting back, validating the “Bressonian model” approach like no other performance (while ironically yielding the only Bresson model to become a star professional). For the last time, Bresson employs voiceover flashback techniques that were his mainstay in the 50s, but this time no redemptive epiphany awaits. Bresson’s early works may be more structurally satisfying in their self-contained perfection, but there’s a ton of excitement in watching a 68 year-old modernist come to terms with the unresolved present tense of postmodern life.

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