|Nadine Nortier plays the title role in Mouchette (1967) d. Robert Bresson|
d. Robert Bresson
Criterion Collection #363
I'm certain that you can't have a deep and far ranging conversation about French cinema without referencing Bresson- at least in passing. It's a fact that he was the main model for the "auteur" theory developed by the critic-filmmakers of the French New Wave, and you REALLY can't talk about French cinema without an intimate familiarity with the principal film makers of the French New Wave, so by extension Bresson gets in there.
Bresson's big run of hits went from 1956, when A Man Escaped was released and includes Pickpocket (1962), Au hazard Balthazar (1966) and this film. Bresson's classics share a spare, melancholy style, with none of the stylistic flash and pop that would come to define French New Wave. This style is typified in Mouchette, the story of a young girl living in rural France- with a dying mother, an absentee-ish father and a new born baby sister. Her house is a one room shack at the side of a busy road. During her few restful moments Bresson reminds us of the location by having trucks rumble by outside, their lights flashing across the face of Mouchette as she tries to sleep.
Like Au hazard Balthazar the rape and subsequent suicide of the main character play a defining role in the film. Mouchette, played by Nadine Nortier, is not a talker nor a complainer but the despair of her life is written on her face, and when things take a turn for the worse it is easy for the viewer to emathize with her decision to check out.
At an hour and twenty minutes, Mouchette is an easy watch despite the grim subject matter, mostly because Bresson doesn't fill the screen time with characters complaining, rather he leaves it for the viewer to make the leap of empathy. If you are looking to get caught up on Bresson I would recommend A Man Escaped to start, and then Au hazard Balthazar and Mouchette back-to-back. Be ready for the rapey bits though.