Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Robert Bresson was known for his austere style, which focused the camera on the hands and feet of people doing actions and avoided psychologizing. His films often raised spiritual questions and he seemed particularly interested in the problem of undeserved suffering. One of his most famous films, Au Hasard Balthazar, 1966, is about a donkey and its harsh existence. Bresson seems to be in awe of those who persist through suffering unbowed although they may end defeated or dead (or very occasionally they succeed, as in A Man Escaped, 1956, about a prison break). However, The Devil, Probably, is a more difficult case. In this film, the young protagonist, Charles, doesn't actually suffer much himself - however, he sees the environmental degradation of the world around him (pollution, unrestricted logging, nuclear weapons, etc.) and he knows that it will lead to the suffering of all humankind. He investigates various solutions, religion, political action, marriage, escape into sex/drugs but finds them wanting, although his friends vary in terms of their reactions to the oncoming despair. None of them, however, show any emotion, which is another aspect of Bresson's style (said to heighten the viewer's reactions); the actors are taught to be as inexpressive as possible, and here they are nearly somnambulant. In the end, Charles chooses suicide, not because his own life is hopeless but because the world is a dead end. Or so we can conclude from what is really a very sterile (and bleak) intellectual exercise. The young people around him are concerned about Charles (whose fate we know from the very start of the film) but they seem powerless to stop him (or perhaps they understand him all too well). The ending is rather horrific after a sombre 90 minutes of mundane actions and some ambiguous talk. Only a brief scene on a bus where a few other riders chime in, like a Greek chorus, to suggest that it is the Devil (probably) who is responsible for the world's decline, contains any spark -- and if by Devil, we mean human weakness, then I would elevate the level of probability to certainty. Depressingly relevant, forty years on.
Bresson's style is all there and it is clear that he wants to make a direct statement in what turns out to be a very political film, but sadly his usual austerity feels a bit off with the kind of story he wants to tell, and so the result seems more pretentious than it is compelling.
7.0/10, my review: http://wp.me/p1eXom-2gC
Dire, depressing film much admired by some.
Like Vagabond and Memories of Matsuko, our protagonist is dead at the start of the film, but unlike those other films, you'll find it hard to sympathise with their demise. A "too intelligent" for this world Eco-warrior who thinks he's superior to others, has had enough of the world and gets his druggy mate to shoot him.
'The Devil Probably' is the story of Charles, a student, whose research into political action has left him with little hope of anything actually getting better. His investigation into religion isn't much more fruitful as Charles life around him becomes more and more empty. This has got to be Robert Bresson's most bleak film. Charles is a person who looks around at our world and sees nothing of merit or actually change, rather is large circular cycle where nothing ultimately changes. He's a very intellectual character, and while this film doesnt' support any specific politics, he's a character who you would be more likely to find in a Godard film. I think this is exactly why this film works so well for me. This story never supports or denies Charles' ideals but rather, through visual storytelling, presents a world that is uncontrollable, suggesting that there are mysterious forces, unbeknownst to ourselves, which drive us to do certain things. Bresson isn't interested in lecturing us on what he thinks is right, *cough* Godard *cough*, but instead offers up the notion that we are all at the will of this mysterious force- God, Luck, Karma, Coicidence, whatever the individual want's to call it and as the individual ultimately have little to no control.......
In "The Devil Probably," the cause of death of a young man is upgraded from suicide to murder. Six months previously, apparently tired of watching films of cute baby seals being clubbed to death, Alberte(Tina Irissari) leaves Michel(Henri de Maublanc) for Charles(Antoine Monnier), despite the latter's lack of a fixed abode, thus risking her relationship with her parents. That's even though Charles is carrying on with Edwige(Laetitia Carcano) who is having other affairs of her own.
"The Devil Probably" does not have a plot in any conventional sense of the word. Rather, it is concerned with some issues that are still relevant to the youth of today, such as the poisoning of the environment. Luckily, nuclear armageddon is no longer such a nightmarish possibility while nuclear waste is still on the table. In this world of possibly no future where religion's influence is on the wane, at least Michael is putting up a fight while Charles just goes around in circles. None of that excuses the flat line readings, especially considering the momentous decisions at stake.
la apatÃa a la apatÃa
It refuses to provide any real explanation for its protagonist's descent, but that's Bresson for you - you provide your own meaning. It's not easy, but on the evidence of this restrained yet strangely shattering film, it's ultimately a more rewarding experience
Perhaps Bresson's most demanding and grimmest film. It's tough to watch but it's very rewarding.