Mouchette by Robert Bresson…or You In the Damn River, Girl!
My husband, Claude, can be quite the dichotomous film snob. On the one hand, he adores foreign, nearly impossible to understand films. On the other hand, he adores people who imitate rednecks or backwoods people. Like John Bean, who created the character Leroy Mercer and made a bunch of prank phone calls. And some other character named Jessico White, whose wife says of him, “Now, Jessico, he got a bit of the dai-vel in him”. I’ve heard an audio clip of some something with Jessico where he and some other guy get their car stuck in a river. The other passenger, who was confused, says something like “Where are we?” to which Jessico replies, “You in the damn river, boy, where you THANK you ayut?” To which Claude just prostrates himself in hilarious laughter, complete with hacking cough and slobber.
Mouchette by Robert Bresson, with the possible exception of “Last House on the Left” or “200 Motels“, is truly the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I agreed to watch this “masterpiece” with Claude, who gazed intently at the 42” television to catch every flicker of every frame, as if to turn away would make the film turn into a “Mr. Ed” rerun. Actually, for me, that would have been a vast improvement. All during the movie, I can see and hear his reaction – sighs of rapture, squinting of his kino-eye, him gesturing as if to say, “did you see THAT??”; the clickety-clack of his brain thinking “wow, this is some kinda movie, I sure am glad I’m a-watchin it.”
This film, if one can call it that, is about the horrible life of a little girl and all the terrible things she must put up with – an alcoholic father, a bed-ridden mother, poachers, rapists, people trying to pick her up on bumper cars, and, gosh, I don’t want to give away the climactic ending, but let’s just say, you in the damn river, girl. Mouchette, get out of that river!
When I was interrogated (practically using the Gitmo method) by Claude after having wasted two hours of my life watching this waste of celluloid as to my impressions of the “film”, we nearly came to fisticuffs over my saying, “I hated that.” I had to hear all kinds of rebuttals: “You just don’t UNDERSTAND Bresson!” “How can you say such a thing about one of the greatest films of ALL TIME?” “Didn’t you see all the REFERENCES in it?” My father would have said, “I wouldn’t hit a hog in the ass with the Criterion Collector’s Edition of this film.” Claude also got one of his film snob buddies to tell me that Bresson is an “acquired taste”. So is being a dog food taster. I’d go with the latter, myself, if the choice were presented between watching Mouchette and being a dog food taster.
Bresson, in all his “wisdom”, didn’t even use actors for the movie – he just got ordinary people off the street …(”and what PEFORMANCES he got out of them!” proclaims Claude). To say this movie is a downer is the understatement of the past several centuries. It makes the Spanish Inquisition look like It’s A Small World after being Disneyfied. Now, I’m not against films that are downers, per se. But here you have a story of a little girl whose life is just pure hell, and then, well, she’s in the damn river, and….the end. Or, as Bresson would say, “Fin.” I just can’t see where cinematic history was made, but apparently it was. Yeah. Luckily for me, a favorite director/actor of mine, Orson Welles hated Bresson too, but Claude holds that against Welles to this day. Decades after Welles’ death. He reminds me of that fact to make me “feel better” that I’m in “good company” with fellow Bresson-haters. I really tried to like this. I kept telling myself, “It’s arty. Claude likes it. There must be SOME redeeming quality to it.” There is none. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I even agreed to re-watch it to see if I could discover any redeeming qualities. After Claude sent me the film synopsis today so I could write this review, I have reconsidered this agreement.
Being the wife of a film snob gives you all kinds of opportunties to impress your friends and neighbors by saying, “Oh, have you seen blah-blah-blah?” and being able to tell them how wonderful it is and how they should discover it, and their lives will be all the richer for it. Mouchette is not one of those films. This is one of those arty films that I would tell viewers to run far, far away from…as far as planes, trains or automobiles can carry you. Your life will not be enriched by Mouchette. You won’t be smarter or artier or anything that you can boast or brag about to your friends. You’ll just be depressed. And then, you might be in the damn river, boy. Don’t take that chance.
I’m replacing the word “sucks” with the word “mouchettes” in my vocab. So, Mouchette mouchettes. I heard a great mouchetting sound. Less than one star. If I could give negative stars, I would.