Review: Mouchette (1967)

Whilst Mouchette certainly doesn't make for easy viewing there has never been a better time to experience Robert Bresson at the height of his powers

Regarded as one of Bresson‘s finest films Mouchette was released to great acclaim in 1967 and went on to win a number of awards. It’s a tragic tale of a girl struggling to raise her baby sibling with little help from a dying mother and a near useless alcoholic father.

From the powerful disturbing opening scenes it is evident that Bresson is one of the greats, the evocative imagery of the struggling animal really shape perceptions of what is to come later in the film, it’s his  uncompromising visual style combined with some fantastic use of extreme close up that grip you from the very beginning.

The jarring edits (that initially take some getting used to) build to create a fantastic sense of detachment from the film that brings the audience into the same emotional space as the eponymous Mouchette. The sparing use of dialogue also keeps the audience at arms length from the supporting cast but again brings you closer to the mindset of the tragic little girl lost.

Whilst the dialogue is minimal that doesn’t stop the performances being fantastic throughout, in addition to Nadine Nortier‘s devastating turn as the titular Mouchette, Jean-Claude Guilbert is excellent as the almost loveable rogue Arsène. His relationship with the young girl is one of the films greatest strengths and certainly keeps things interesting throughout.

Despite the famous and frankly horrific ending the film isn’t a relentlessly depressing affair, there are some fantastic and unashamedly French visual flourishes to be found here, the Dodgem scene proves to be one of the film’s most captivating and has almost dreamlike quality to it. But it really is the power of the closing scene that makes the film an unforgettable watch.

Whilst Mouchette certainly doesn’t make for easy viewing there has never been a better time to experience Robert Bresson at the height of his powers, the HD transfer is frankly exceptional and French black & white cinema has rarely looked better on a home release. This combined with some interesting special features mean you would be a fool not to add to this to your collection.

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