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This review is from: The Devil, Probably [DVD] (DVD)
Sometimes, the outward manner of a work of art (the "style" or "form") may be incredibly rigorous and intensely stylized, yet the thematic concerns (the "story" or "content") may be wildly disorganized, almost anarchic. It may seem a heresy to say this of Robert Bresson, but after UNE FEMME DOUCE (1969), his concentration on youth and his determined pessimism led him into a series of increasingly fragmented works, perhaps mirroring his fractured sense of the world.
THE DEVIL, PROBABLY is surely one of the most schizoid film in Bresson's career: there are (literally) unleavened chunks of didactic discourse, droning lectures over immaculately edited stock footage showing atrocities done to animals (baby seals, etc.) and the planet. The "message" isn't even subtle: Bresson wants to clobber his viewer with his vision of a planet gone beyond redemption, now in the throes of degradation and destruction. Yet Bresson lingers over his youthful protagonists, in their (deliberately) blank ambiguity (innocence? inexperience?), and he allows the camera to catch them in moments which come perilously close to emotion.
The fracture in the movie's structure is symptomatic of what seems to be an almost hysterical need to make a statement on Bresson's part (and he was never known for didacticism before). Yet, as photographed by Pasqualino De Santis, this is one of Bresson's most seductively tacticle works, with the lighting seeming to irradiate most of the scenes.
The late 1960s and early 1970s seemed to be a time when many in the French cinema were driven to make apocalyptic fantasies: Godard with ALPHAVILLE and WEEKEND, Truffaut with FAHRENHEIT 451, Louis Malle with BLACK MOON, Alain Resnais with JE T'AIME JE T'AIME, even Jacques Demy with THE PIED PIPER. But Bresson didn't turn towards science fiction for his apocalypse: he turned to science fact, and let the facts speak for themselves to come up with this vision of hell on earth.