About Those Dames: “Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne”

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Frenchman Jean ceases to love Helene, who in turn plots to avenge herself on him.  She starts financially supporting Agnes, a destitute cabaret dancer, and Agnes’s mother with the objective of introducing Agnes to Jean, sensing that he will fall for her.  He does, but without knowing that Agnes is less than respectable—as ashamed, indeed, as she is cynical.

This is what goes on in  Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1944), Robert Bresson‘s second film.  The tale is lifted from a Diderot novel, though it seems very Henry Jamesian, infused with Bresson’s perennial Catholic morality.  With a moving last scene, it’s quite a good love story (between Jean and Agnes), and by no means are the characters two-dimensional.  They are intelligently acted by Maria Casares (Helene), a not-miscast Elina Labourdette (Agnes), and Lucienne Bogaert (Agnes’s mother).  Paul Bernard, however, is deplorably charmless as Jean.

(In French with English subtitles)

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