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Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne [Import]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Bernard, María Casares, Elina Labourdette, Lucienne Bogaert, Jean Marchat
  • Directors: Robert Bresson
  • Writers: Robert Bresson, Denis Diderot, Jean Cocteau
  • Producers: Raoul Ploquin
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC, Import
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: March 11 2003
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000087EY6

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For years, I have heard of Bresson's films; many praises for them, notably from directors like Michael Haneke. I even saw some excerpts of Bresson's movies on the Web like Mouchette and the result impressed me. But I unfortunately never had the chance or opportunity to watch one of his movies. Until I found a copy of "Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne", with dialogues written by Jean Cocteau, artist I love and whose collaboration sparked my curiosity. The end result was that I now have a bigger interest to watch Bresson's films, even though I know they differ quite greatly from this one as he never employed actors again; using only non-professionals for the rest of his life.

This movie is an excellent adaptation of a novella contained inside "Jacques le Fataliste", an excellent novel of disgression I read at University. The story, set in the forties after the war although the movie was shot during it, concerns an upper class woman who schemes a liaison between Jean, her naive and good-willed ex-lover, and Agnès, a cabaret dancer whose mother has led her into a life of prostitution with her male spectators. Of its adaptation, it is important to know that Cocteau improved the dialogues, making them more romantic and emotional than in the original story. But as Truffaut also pinpointed out in a review he wrote, and which Criterion offers inside a leaflet, the major improvement concern Agnès, whom Bresson and Cocteau made her simple and innocent; and her dilemmas and pains more accessible to us than in the original novel.

As for Jean-Jacques Grunnenwald, his music is wonderful, dramatic and Bresson uses it very sparingly. Making its presence more powerful for the audience and leaving out any risks for pleonasms in critical scenes.
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Helene (Maria Casares)is a passionate but also a cool woman who falls in love with Bernard . The sad day arrives when Bernard confess her he no longer loves her. This is the starting point of a careful revenge from the inner depths from her soul against Labourdette and her mother.
The script is overknown. But in hands of Bresson it became in another masterpiece in his career.
Bresson was a man concerned around the huge possibilities of visual expressions; so you may consider all his films as mude films with unnecesary subtitles.
Bresson belongs to a reduced category of giants filmakers such as Dryer, Murnau or Renoir but gifted of poetic atmosphere since the opening sequences of any of his previous or next films.
If you 're really interested in his filmography you'll find out such hidden treasures that you'll convince by yourself that Bresson is not only enoughly known even today, but he's a genius in the caleidoscopic sense of the word.
The minimalism is a concept that I disagree in Bresson's case. His spiritual concerns hardly may be entitled ; the genius is always contemporean and that is why he escapes to any reduced category.
This film must have been a true revelation in its age. Jean Delanoy for instance won a deserved triumph in Cannes with the Pastoral Symphony, for instance , but you feel that Delanoy is in a lineal level ; he's just a storyteller without the bliss of Bresson.
"The art and nothing more the art ; we live from the art for not dying from the truth" Nietszche.
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I hadn't seen this one before & now, thanks to Criterion, I've seen it 5 times in two weeks, that's how great it is, & that's how obsessed I am with Bresson's incredible, ultra-subtle style of speaking volumes with the unsaid, the unspoken in the images, or what Andre Bazin called the 'ellipsis.'
This film actually was a popular success at the time & is Bresson at his most romantic within his already estabished less-is-more strategy; a more passionate version of his later more austere visual style, here it flows like a great piece of music, like something out of the best Mozart or Beethoven (the beautiful soundtrack is also similar to 19th century classical mixed with Ravelian modernity), & stands-up to any number of repeat viewings, long after the very simple story of manipulation & revenge & all the Cocteau dialogue itself is known by heart. The cinematography is a breathtakingly shaded, soft, almost silent-film-like black-&-white by Philip Agostini (Le Jour se leve, Rififi) & though the camera moves constantly you are never ever aware of it unless you look for it; it never draws attention to itself.
The level of acting Bresson gets out of all four leads --Maria Casares, Lucienne Bogaert, Elina Labourdette & Paul Bernard-- is just spectacular, untouchable, unbelievably great. Maria Casares takes the cake though, she is just electrifying & oozes a level of mystery, mischief & upper-class-noir Bette Davis & Gloria Swanson never dreamed of (just compare this to the 'good girl' she played in 'Les Enfants du Paradis,' as Baptiste's wife).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
10 Stars; a masterpiece; One of the great French films June 21 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I hadn't seen this one before & now, thanks to Criterion, I've seen it 5 times in two weeks, that's how great it is, & that's how obsessed I am with Bresson's incredible, ultra-subtle style of speaking volumes with the unsaid, the unspoken in the images, or what Andre Bazin called the 'ellipsis.'
This film actually was a popular success at the time & is Bresson at his most romantic within his already estabished less-is-more strategy; a more passionate version of his later more austere visual style, here it flows like a great piece of music, like something out of the best Mozart or Beethoven (the beautiful soundtrack is also similar to 19th century classical mixed with Ravelian modernity), & stands-up to any number of repeat viewings, long after the very simple story of manipulation & revenge & all the Cocteau dialogue itself is known by heart. The cinematography is a breathtakingly shaded, soft, almost silent-film-like black-&-white by Philip Agostini (Le Jour se leve, Rififi) & though the camera moves constantly you are never ever aware of it unless you look for it; it never draws attention to itself.
The level of acting Bresson gets out of all four leads --Maria Casares, Lucienne Bogaert, Elina Labourdette & Paul Bernard-- is just spectacular, untouchable, unbelievably great. Maria Casares takes the cake though, she is just electrifying & oozes a level of mystery, mischief & upper-class-noir Bette Davis & Gloria Swanson never dreamed of (just compare this to the 'good girl' she played in 'Les Enfants du Paradis,' as Baptiste's wife).
The print they transferred to DVD isn't perfect like certain other restored films of this period such as "Les Enfants Du Paradis," & has quite a few tracer lines & imperfections through it which they cleaned up to the extent they could. However, this is still an essential DVD purchase for anyone even remotely interested in the great films of French cinema, & Criterion is to be commended for making it available to the public at large, so they don't have to wait 5 years for rare screenings to experience true art & true artists at work.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
More Cocteau than Bresson April 15 2007
By Nobody - Published on Amazon.com
`Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne' was directed in 1945 by: Robert Bresson (Diary Of A Country Priest, 1950; A Man Escaped,1956; Pickpocket, 1959; Au Hasard Balthazzar, 1966) The screenplay was adapted from the Denis Diderot short story `Jacques The Fatalist' by poet, artist and director Jean Cocteau (La Belle Et La Bete, 1946; Orphee, 1949). This seems an odd coupling because their work as directors is in complete contrast and because of the dialogue it makes this film feels more like a Cocteau film. This is however was only Bresson's second film and what would be determined as Bressonian, his lack of theatre and visually austere style, would only be developed in his subsequent the film of the 1950s.

Bresson used actors (he would later use non-professional or `models') in this film the most notable being Maria Caseras (Le Enfants Du Paradis, 1945; Orphee,1949) whom astute critics at the time compared to Joan Crawford who had just starred in `Mildred Pierce' (1945,Curtiz) and the following years `Possessed' (1946, Bernhardt). It is that manipulative femme fatale role that is the defining quality of this, which could be considered, French film noir.

Cinematography was by Philippe Agostini who had shot the now famous poetic realist `La Jour Se Leve' (1939, Carne) a cinematic movement that was instrumental in the development of American film noir. He would later work on `Le Plaisir' (1952, Ophuls) and `Riffifi' (1955, Dassin) both being stylistically brilliant films.

`Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne' may in the end be good Cocteau but not so good Bresson.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Worth owning for much re-visiting July 28 2004
By Ian Muldoon - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
For consistency of tone, measured pace, and assured craft, this is a very fine film. I think of the word EXQUISITE. I think of the word LOVE. I think of the word FRANCE. I remember some lines from this film -There is no such thing as love, just the proof of love-To own and revisit and so to be reminded of what the best of cinema has to offer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Femme Fatale's Cruel Behavior in French High Society Sept. 21 2013
By Stephanie De Pue - Published on Amazon.com
LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE, (1945). In this black and white 86 minute classic of French cinema, admired director Robert Bresson follows the cruel machinations of rich and beautiful Parisian socialite Hélène (María Casares,Les Enfants Du Paradis), a femme fatale who decides to destroy her shallow former beau Jean (Paul Bernard) after he admits he has lost interest in her. She is fueled by vengeance as she orchestrates a remarkably expensive scheme to trick Jean into marrying a "cabaret dancer" (Elina Labourdette). The film is an updated but reasonably accurate adaptation of the story of Madame de La Pommeraye from 18th century French author Denis Diderot's novel JACQUES LE FATALISTE. Famed French author/filmmaker Jean Cocteau, (Beauty and The Beast (The Criterion Collection), 1946; Orpheus (Criterion Collection), 1949), contributed the film's lyrical dialog.

This is a classic love triangle, but Bresson, (A Man Escaped, Pickpocket (The Criterion Collection) ), who, early in his career, has not yet fully developed his minimal storytelling style, does show some minimalist touches in telling its story, increasing its impact. All four lead actors -and in his future work, Bresson was seldom to work with professional actors--deliver fully-inhabited performances. Moreover, the director does seem to have been largely un-minimalist in the film's making. Interiors are well-decorated and luxurious; the women's wardrobes are ample and elegant, attributed to well-known French designers Gres and Schiaparelli. Cinematography, by Philip Agostini (creator of the memorable looks of Essential Art House: Le Jour se Lève, and Rififi (The Criterion Collection)), is outstanding: the picture is visually beautiful. Soundtrack, which Bresson would rarely use later, is by Jean-Jacques Grunenwald. Perhaps most notably, Bresson has also given the film a more-or-less happy Hollywood ending: after the wedding Helene cannot resist telling Jean about his new wife's secret past. But this malicious exposure will be followed by more surprises.

LES DAMES is a brisk and beautiful treatment, by a greatly gifted director, of an old and interesting story. Worth seeing even if you're not particularly a Bressonian, if you've the tolerance for black and white and subtitles.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Whose Film Is It Anyway? June 22 2011
By David M. Goldberg - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
At the time of writing, there are already 10 reviews of this DVD in the file, so a detailed analysis is unnecessary. Instead, I prefer to critique some of the earlier comments in light of my own perception of the film. Firstly, I could not fault the quality of the transfer, but I did consider the paucity of extras somewhat ungenerous. Secondly, I think that it is pure hyperbole to call this film a "masterpiece". Stylistically, it drifts between a period piece and film noire. It is a collaboration between a man of images (Bresson) and a man of words (Cocteau), and it seems that the latter wins out; his dialogue is quite brilliant: full of ideas and insights expressed in a direct and economical manner, although some of it is shaped in set pieces that create the vocal feel of a stage play rather than a movie. For a relative novice, Bresson's contribution is impressive: lean, elegant, austere, and on occasions sensuous, with just the right pacing to keep the tension high while allowing the twists and turns of the plot to sink in. His technical crew do marvellous work, lighting and shading the imagery in an exciting and poetic fashion.

Praise for the actors has been justifiably abundant, but in my view Paul Bernard represents a weak link. His hysterical and effeminate portrayal of the hapless Jean is no match for the steely razor-sharp Helene of Maria Casares, more in the mould of her Death in Orpheus than her Nathalie in Les Enfants du Paradis. But this leads to a very one-sided battle. The literary source of the film ( Diderot) overlaps that of Les Liaisons Dangereuses ( Leclos ). There are clear similarities in the seduction of a young girl planned by a couple of lovers whose affair is going sour, and they are the real protagonists rather than the agent and the object of seduction. The two film versions of the second that I have seen succeeded convincingly because the male characters ( Gerard Phillipe and John Malkovich ) were strong enough actors to stand up to Jeanne Moreau and Glen Close respectively. Not here, where Casares has it all her own way. The final point I want to make is the difficulty in accepting that the angelic Agnes was practicing as a prostitute. No visual evidence to this effect is presented, and her character as revealed to us would seem to rule this out. Why then her deep sense of shame? Were her vaudeville performances alone the cause of such remorse or was simply appearing on stage in Paris in the late 18th Century sufficient to be branded a whore? The modern dress adaptation of the parable conditions us to expect a more contemporary moral code, so that her behaviour appears silly and hysterical by our standards. Bresson and Cocteau should have dealt with this more convincingly. No masterpiece, but a fascinating psychodrama that has some of the characteristics of one.


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