Alternate title: Night of the Living Dead Goes to Paris! Every once in a while all the critics steer you wrong. This movie got 100% at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert couldn’t say enough good things about it. Robert Bresson, the writer/director, is a darling of all cinephiles. And guess what? They’re all full of shit.
Dig this: Bresson didn’t use the word “actor.” He called the zombies who plod through his movies “models.” I’d have preferred “ventriloquist dummies.” Howdy Doody could have given a better performance than any model in this movie, in any role, including the woman. Bresson had a theory, an “auteur” theory, I guess. He thought acting had no place in cinema. To that end, he rehearsed his models endlessly, until they were so bored with the material they had no choice but to render emotionless performances.
I’m not going to bother with the plot. Fuck the plot. I’m not going to bother with the endless explanations of what was really going on, what it all symbolized, how brave it was to have actors not act. Fuck all that. I had all the emotional involvement I might have had watching an episode of “South Park.” If that was Bresson’s intention, fuck Bresson. No one in the movie smiles. Not once. No one frowns. Once—once!—a man raises his voice. I practically shit my pants, waking up so suddenly.
I hated this movie so much it almost pains me to say it did do one thing well. It showed the mechanics of picking pockets. I learned a dozen way to dip. Not that I’d ever do it or even want to, but I’m a student of cons and dirty dealing, so this was fascinating. Take all those scenes out and string them together and you’d have a nice 10-minute police training film. (Dick Tracy Crime Stoppers Hint: Never trust a man with a folded newspaper!) And you wouldn’t even have to show the mournful faces of the models!