Lianne was getting her haircut last night, so I watched Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest one of those slow boring French movies. I had the vague idea I'd seen it long ago, but though the beginning felt vaguely familiar I didn't remember any of it. Either I imagined seeing it, or I only watched a few minutes of it (too boring maybe?). I'm not that familiar with Bresson, but I recently ordered Paul Schrader's book on Ozu, Bresson, and Dreiser, so I thought I'd familiarize myself with him. This particular film was pretty damn slow. It felt old, not like a classic Hollywood old, but like pre-film old. Even the setting looked as if were the 18th or 19th century, only belied by a scene or two with old cars, and 1 scene with a motorcycle. Visually it has the feel of a play, not necessarily because it was shot from a fixed point or because the camera didn't move, but it was almost always one shots and two shots, lots of close-ups of faces, only a few scenes showing landscape or even whole rooms. Everything felt enclosed, punctuated by the occasional walk or ride. Perhaps that is thematically relevant to the protagonists stifled life and slow death suffering, or perhaps that is just Bresson's style, I have to see more to know. The narrative is punctuated (per the title) by visuals of the priest writing in his diary and accompanying narration of the words. These, along with the constant fades (and cross-fades, I guess) between scenes give the plot a fractured feel, time becomes indeterminate.
Narratively, the story is strongly religious (Catholic, of course), which I believe is also symptomatic of Bresson's movies. A dream-like quality also adhers throughout partly due to the fragmented scenes, but also because logic often feels missing from some of the character actions. Everyone seems to think badly of the priest for not totally clear reasons, and it becomes a sort of absurd persecution, which I guess also fits in with his sickness/suffering and Catholicism. In the end, I'm not sure it's a movie I will watch again, but I am curious to watch a few more Bresson films.
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