Mouchette

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Mouchette
Mouchette 1967 film poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byRobert Bresson
Screenplay byRobert Bresson
Based onMouchette by Georges Bernanos
Produced byAnatole Dauman
StarringNadine Nortier
Jean-Claude Guilbert
Marie Cardinal
Paul Hebert
CinematographyGhislain Cloquet
Edited byRaymond Lamy
Music byJean Wiener
Claudio Monteverdi
Distributed byUGC / CFDC
Release date
  • 26 October 1967 (1967-10-26)
Running time
81 min.
CountryFrance
LanguageFrench

Mouchette (pronounced [mu.ʃɛt]) is a 1967 French film directed by Robert Bresson, starring Nadine Nortier and Jean-Claude Guilbert. It is based on the novel of the same name by Georges Bernanos.[1] Bresson explained his choice of the novel saying, "I found neither psychology or analysis in it. The substance of the book seemed usable. It could be sieved."[1] It was entered into the 1967 Cannes Film Festival, winning the OCIC Award (International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual).[2]

A coming-of-age story, Mouchette is set in a rural French village and follows the daughter of a bullying alcoholic father and ailing mother. Unfolding in the director's famously sparse and minimalist style, Bresson said that its titular character "offers evidence of misery and cruelty. She is found everywhere: wars, concentration camps, tortures, assassinations[1]."

Mouchette is among Bresson's more acclaimed films.[3][4] The Criterion Collection DVD release includes a trailer for the film made by Jean-Luc Godard.

Plot[edit]

The film opens in a church where a woman, seated alone, wonders aloud what will happen to "them." Church music and the opening title sequence follow as the woman gets up and walks out. We later learn that she is Mouchette's mother and that she is close to dying. The film cuts to a gamekeeper, Mathieu, watching a poacher, Arsène, as he sets his snares in the sunlit woods.

Mouchette, whose name means "little fly," lives in an isolated French village with her alcoholic father and bedridden, dying mother, where she takes care of her infant brother and does all the housework. She is first introduced at her school, in bedraggled clothes and oversized clogs, where she is laughed at by her classmates and chastised by her teacher for refusing to sing. Later, Mouchette throws mud at several girls in her class who run away.

In one of the few happy scenes in the film, in a contrast to the misery of her daily life, Mouchette goes to a fair. She has just given her wages to her father. But a kind woman with an infant buys a ticket and gives it to her so she can ride on the bumper cars. She and a young man bump into each other's cars as a mutual flirtation. Before she can speak to the boy after the ride, her father abruptly intervenes, slapping her in the face twice and pushing her away.

While walking home from school one day, she gets lost in the woods and seeks shelter under a tree when a rainstorm falls. Arsène, an alcoholic epileptic poacher, stumbles upon her and takes her to his hut. He fears he has killed a man with whom he had fought earlier and attempts to use Mouchette as an alibi to disabuse him of the blame. After she agrees to repeat the story he gives her, Mouchette tries to leave. Arsène blocks her way, chases her down, and then rapes her. By early morning, Mouchette has escaped. He looks for her in the woods but cannot find her. Returning home and finding her mother's condition worsening, she attempts to comfort her. After her mother succumbs to this sickness, Mouchette goes on an excursion for milk. On the way, she has three encounters with the townspeople. A shopkeeper sees a scratch on her chest and then calls her a "little slut." Her father had called her a "little hussy" in the previous scene. Elderly women dressed in black are going to church. The church bell started ringing in the previous scene and continues to ring now and then until the film ends. Perhaps the mother's funeral is being held there. We never know if the mother even had a funeral.

Later, when talking to the gamekeeper Mathieu and his wife about the events of the previous night in the woods, she tries to offer the story agreed with Arsène. Reluctantly, she states that she was at Arsène's house through the night because he is her lover. Finally, she is invited into the house of an elderly woman, who gives her a dress to wear at the funeral and a shroud to cover her mother. The woman speaks to her about worshiping the dead and gives Mouchette three nice dresses that will fit. On her way out, Mouchette insults her and damages her carpet. Mouchette then witnesses several hunters shooting and killing two rabbits. The second one is wounded and cannot hop. Mouchette then walks up a small hill and takes one of the three dresses to try it on, but a branch catches on and tears a hole through it. There is an establishing shot of a stream that returns at the very end of the film.

The film cuts to Mouchette rolling down a hill with the now dirty and ragged dress wrapped around her. Mouchette quickly gets up at the sound of a tractor and waves to the man driving it. He seems too far away to see her. Oddly, she does not cry out to him to get his attention. She turns back and rolls down again out of frame and stops in-frame at the bank of the stream, near the flowers we saw earlier. The camera lingers on the flower while she returns to the top of the hill and rolls downhill a third and final time. There is a splash at the end of the second shot. It is revealed that Mouchette has disappeared. Classical music echoes the music at the beginning and continues as the film fades to black.

Cast[edit]

Besides his preference for non-professional actors, Bresson liked to cast actors he had never used before. The one major exception is Jean-Claude Guilbert, who had the role of Arnold in Au hasard Balthazar, and plays Arsène in this film.[5]

Actor Role
Nadine Nortier Mouchette
Jean-Claude Guilbert Arsène
Marie Cardinal Mother
Paul Hebert Father
Jean Vimenet Mathieu
Marie Susini Mathieu's wife
Suzanne Huguenin Layer-out of the Dead
Marine Trichet Louisa
Raymonde Chabrun Grocer

Reception[edit]

In 1967, Mouchette won the OCIC Award (International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual) at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Pasinetti Award at the Venice Film Festival.[6]

The "critics consensus" at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes states: "Remarkable not only as a viewing experience, but as a showcase for Robert Bresson's tremendous skill, Mouchette underpins its grim narrative with devastating grace."[7] In The Spectator, the critic Penelope Houston highlighted the excellence of Nadine Nortier's performance as Mouchette, writing that, as a consequence, "the whole film becomes luminous, transparent, bafflingly effortless", resulting in "a kind of perfection". Noting the lack of sentimentality or sadism in Bresson's portrayal of Mouchette's suffering, Houston writes that "Mouchette is not a child for anyone's pity, except, in both senses, her creator's." She concludes that "Like Au Hasard, Balthazar, Mouchette is a deeply pessimistic film which somehow leaves one in a mood close to exhilaration. It is conceived, if you like, as a religious experience in which the heroine is not a saint, and in which there is no conventional religious reference."[8]

Mouchette is considered by many critics to be among Bresson's better films. The Swedish director Ingmar Bergman reportedly praised and loved the film.[9] Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky listed the film as one of the ten favorite movies of all time.[10] Sight & Sound's critics’ poll placed Mouchette in its top 20 in 1972,[citation needed] and in the magazine's 2012 poll of the greatest films of all time Mouchette placed 107th in the directors' poll and 117th in the critics' poll.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Sadoul, Georges (1972). Dictionary of films. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 228. ISBN 9780520021525.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Mouchette". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  3. ^ "Robert Bresson's Acclaimed Films". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  4. ^ "Votes for Mouchette (1966)". British Film Institute. 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  5. ^ Joseph Cunneen, "The Purity of Rebellion: Mouchette" Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film. New York: Continuum (2003): 118.
  6. ^ "Mouchette (1967) awards & festivals on MUBI". mubi.com. Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  7. ^ Mouchette (1967), retrieved 2021-02-23
  8. ^ "Keeping up with the D'Urbervilles » 22 Mar 1968 » The Spectator Archive". The Spectator Archive. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  9. ^ John Simon. "Ingmar Bergman on Mouchette". RobertBresson.com. Retrieved 18 June 2021. John Simon: "What about Bresson? How do you feel about him?" Ingmar Bergman: "Oh, Mouchette! I loved it, I loved it! But Balthazar was so boring, I slept through it." John Simon: "I liked Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne and A Man Escaped, but I would say The Diary of a Country Priest is the best one." Ingmar Bergman: "I have seen it four or five times and could see it again... and Mouchette... really..."
  10. ^ Lasica, Tom. "Tarkovsky's Choice". Nostalghia.com. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  11. ^ "Votes for Mouchette (1966) | BFI". www2.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 2021-02-23.

External links[edit]