Robert Bresson is hard not to like, if once you can begin to like him. His was a career aiming only at perfection, and particularly the perfection of film without anything unessential: if the image in motion couldn’t say something, then he wouldn’t say it. Mouchette is, perhaps, the only movie of his which I just couldn’t enjoy the first time round. That may have been my fault; I’ve never been good with faces and didn’t realize that the two men in the opening sequence were not one and the same, that Mouchette’s father was the same man who pushed her in church, or that the barmaid was in love with the poacher. Bresson is as terse as a director can get, and without the fluff I could see the continuity in the scenes, but not in the persons.
Have you never seen a Bresson movie? ‘A man Escaped’? ‘Pickpocket’? ‘Diary of a Country Priest’? Watch them in that order. He might take some getting used to: moving to Bresson from the likes of Michael Bay, or even Terrence Malick is like walking from a gallery piled with Thomas Kinkade paintings to one dedicated to the Dutch Masters. You will not find in Bresson any sentimental slop or needless motion, perhaps you wouldn’t even find acting: His actors were told not to act; his believed music distracted from the visual (“you can’t be all eyes if you are also all ears”); and he didn’t shoot establishing shots. It would all be exposition: you see the person, you figure it out. Sound like art-house? Well, no one knows what that means. I’ll tell you what it is, it is clean and precise. You will not hear a note if it isn’t important, you will not see an emotion if Bresson didn’t want it (though you may feel unprompted ones), you will never, ever, see a motion of the camera which isn’t meticulously chosen to convey a particular intent.
Without the language of the camera Mouchette wouldn’t be a movie but just a bunch of clips. With the language, though, it is a strange, quiet, maybe despairing look at a young girl who is not loved but desperate to be loved. She knows she should be sought after by someone with the intensity and focus of a hunter, but instead the hunt is too lighthearted and brief–or dangerous. In one way, there is very little to this movie: it is short and sparse. There is, however, a perfection in its crafting which fills out the story as a hard parable of rebuffed yearning for love.