New(er) stories: Narration and de-figuration in Robert Bresson's Mouchette (1967)

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Robert Bresson's continued importance to film-makers and theorists has hinged on a conflict, felt acutely in Mouchette (1967), between narrative representation (a novel adapted from the Catholic novelist and polemicist Georges Bernanos) and a form that privileges fragmentation and ellipsis. Within Gilles Deleuze's theoretical framework, this opposition can be understood as an avoidance of conventional cultural representations of female adolescence in favour of fluid images that carry the difference of pure bodies directly to the viewer's senses. However, borrowing from Jacques Rancire's concept of de-figuration, one can question whether the fluid identity of the film's protagonist achieves total liberation from coercive narrative and social representations. In Mouchette, Bresson does not simply thwart our desire to know through coherent stories; instead his intentionally contradictory presentation of sound, actors and space are constituted by a countering of a culturally saturated narrative, a struggle ending in stalemate. A rereading of Mouchette and a consideration of its legacy in other films, such as Catherine Breillat's 36 Fillette (1988) and the Dardenne brothers' Rosetta (1999), highlight both the power and the limits of Bresson's de-figuration of his French Catholic tradition.

Keywords: aesthetic regime; body; de-figuration; influence; representation; voice

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Clemson University, South Carolina.

Publication date: February 15, 2007

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  • Studies in French Cinema is the only journal published in English devoted exclusively to French cinema, providing scholars, teachers and students from around the world with a consistent quality of academic investigation across the full breadth of the subject. Contributors scrutinise the cultural context of various works and the diverse stylistic approaches that infuse the visual fabric of this genre.
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