Though dramatically different in style and story, the two films available for preview both make bold statements in brilliantly finessed presentations. Bresson’s moody, somber, black-and-white, 1951 Diary of a Country Priest moves deliberately from the arrival of the novice priest at the small village of Ambricourt to his departure. Between those events, this cleric records in his diary his innermost thoughts, delivered in voiceover narration. Bresson worked toward a minimalist presentation of this Catholic cleric enduring physical and spiritual agony. Ill from an unknown malady, he can’t stomach most food, and his small congregation resists his ministrations. Frédéric Bonnaud’s essay that accompanies the Criterion release of Diary accurately states that Diary “is a film about imprisonment” and “failure” and how this man of faith handles his trials. Bresson meticulously composes and slowly pacing this interrogation of one human soul.
By contrast, in Claude Chabrol’s Story of Women Marie knows exactly what she must do in occupied, World War II France for those who need abortions. Soon she’s also renting rooms to prostitutes and taking a dangerous lover of her own. A mesmerizing Isabelle Huppert won Best Actress at the 1988 Venice Film Festival for her fascinating, complex portrayal of a working-class wife who detests her husband while dreaming of life as a chanteuse. Shooting on location, Chabrol visually communicates Marie’s lack of options through restrictive compositions that telegraph her entrapment while signaling her unrealistic romanticism through music and bright colors. It’s an accomplished, exquisite masterpiece.
All films are in French with English subtitles and screen at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Call Me Savage shows Thursday, July 28th, Diary of a Country Priest on Friday, July 29th, Every Man for Himself on Saturday, July 30th, and Story of Women concludes the series Sunday, July 31st. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or visit the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries or cinemastlouis.org.