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Date TimeAugust 02, 2019
VoiceThe French director’s 1969 spectacle about the wife of a pawnbroker who kills herself is still difficult, devastating and captivating 50 years on
Une Femme Douce review – Bressons transcendent reflection on marriage
Robert Bresson’s Une Femme Douce (A Gentle Woman), is now revived in UK cinemas 50 years after its original release – although this stark, austere, forbidding spectacle could just as well have been made in 1959 or 1949. This was his adaptation of the Dostoevsky short story Krotkaya, or A Gentle Creature (the inspiration for a quite different film of the same name by Sergei Loznitsa in 2017). It was his first colour film, and the colours themselves appear muted and darkened, as if from a neglected church tapestry.
Dominique Sanda plays Elle, the delicate young wife of a pawnbroker (that ominous Dostoevskian trope) who takes her own life by jumping from the balcony of their handsome Paris apartment, leaving no suicide note or explanation. The eerily calm widower Luc (Guy Frangin) – his face set in the mask of suppressed emotion that he wore throughout their unhappy marriage – explains the course of their relationship to their equally subdued maid (Jeanne Lobre) as they sit together over the decorously laid-out corpse. This narrative unfolds in flashbacks that are disturbingly, almost seamlessly interleaved with the present: his wife is at one instant dead and at another alive.

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