Robert Bresson's ravishing second feature (1945) relocates a self-contained anecdote from Diderot's 18th-century Jacques le Fataliste in a modern setting, with dialogue by Cocteau, about a jealous woman (Maria Casares), ditched by her lover (Paul Bernard), who takes her revenge by tricking the man into marrying a prostitute (Elina Labourdette). Like much (if not all) of Bresson's best work, it can't be assimilated to realist criteria, but it's unforgettable for its fire-and-ice evocations of tragedy in an unlikely setting. It's the last time that Bresson worked with professional actors, but his procedure of paring away the drama to its essentials is already fully in place; his visual style is more obviously striking here—slicker and more dramatically lit, with high-contrast photography and prowling camera movements—than it was to become later. In French with subtitles.
By Dave Kehr