Saturday, November 17, 2007

Forgotten VHS #2- Bresson's "The Devil, Probably"


Robert Bresson’s 1977 masterpiece “The Devil, Probably” is his greatest color work, epitomizing Bresson’s brilliant transition from a mastery of classical black and white to the expanded possibilities of a multicolored cinematic world. The film is the apotheosis of Bresson’s ascetic style, which delves further into nihilism in “The Devil, Probably” than in any of his other films. Along with “Agnes du péché” (1943), “Trial of Joan of Arc” (1962), “Une femme douce” (1969), and “Four Nights of a Dreamer” (1971), “The Devil, Probably” is currently unavailable on DVD, and, sadly, its rights belong to New Yorker Video, a company which has historically released low quality, bare bones DVDs with terrible prints, as is the case with Bresson’s “A Man Escaped” (1956), “Lancelot du lac” (1974), and “L’ Argent” (1983). However, “The Devil, Probably” is certainly worth searching for on VHS and can be found easily on the Amazon.com Marketplace or eBay.

Bresson’s film follows a disaffected youth, named Charles, who confronts and challenges religion (a favorite Bresson topic), industrialism, psychology, politics, and the counterculture during his existential journey through the banal and uninspired streets of Paris. The film addresses one of the primary themes of Bresson’s oeuvre, suicide, in a more direct way than in previous films, truly dealing with issues of unavoidable meaninglessness and bypassing the faith-based semi-miracles that transform many of Bresson’s characters and save them from the void of nothingness, as in “Diary of a Country Priest” (1950), “A Man Escaped” (1956), and “Pickpocket” (1959). “The Devil, Probably” contains many unforgettable scenes, including a great conversation between Charles and a psychoanalyst, as well as a haunting final scene that feels like the immaculate capstone to Bresson’s highly influential and totally inimitable career.

by Brandon Colvin

*Editor and Writer's Warning*
The subtitles on the VHS are not very good, but it is still well worth it. Just don't say we didn't warn you...

2 comments:

Jeremy Richey said...

What is wrong with New Yorker Home Video? I just don't get it. They are sitting on all of these incredibly important titles, and when they do release them they manage to almost always botch them.
I just don't get it...
anyway, fantastic film. I prefer "Une Femme Douce" but that has probably more to do with the fact that I have seen it mulitiple times...I am really enjoying these Forgotten VHS posts, and I will try not to steal the idea for Moon In The Gutter...
Just joking, keep up the great work...

Brandon Colvin said...

My loathing for New Yorker Video is so immense. I wish they would just do the noble thing and give all the films to which they have the rights to Criterion.

I should have one for "Une Femme Douce" up in the future, so look out for it.