Mouchette (Robert Bresson, 1967). When I was a teenager, I loved riding on bumper cars. I didn’t much care for the rides that went round and round ... made me want to barf. But bumper cars ... you could be as mean and violent as you wanted, in fact that seemed like the point of the ride. My only redeeming quality was if I felt someone was being a bully on some bumper car rookie, I would spend the rest of my ride smashing into them as many times as possible. I also liked to “accidentally” get turned around so I could blast into people head-on. The title character of Mouchette is one of the most glum people you’ll ever find in a movie. Depressed, hateful, all for good reason, her life is a disaster. She goes beyond not liking the popular girls at her school ... she waits for them when the school day ends and throws mud at them. But there is one brief scene where Mouchette is, if not happy, at least smiling: when she rides bumper cars. She seems to enjoy being hit as much as she enjoys crashing into others. I’m not sure what is weirder, that her one moment of happiness comes via bumper cars, or that Bresson allowed his film to show two minutes of joy. I once wrote about Bresson, “Bresson has an individual vision about film, and his films are very clearly ‘his’. He is one of the few directors who truly deserve the title of ‘auteur’.” Usually, this leads me to admire a film more than I actually like it, and that’s the case here, as well. (The one time he won me over was A Man Escaped.) #174 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 7/10.
Secret Sunshine (Chang-dong Lee, 2007). Do-yeon Jeon does wonders with the leading role of Shin-ae, a recently widowed mother of a young son. Lee’s approach is deceptively simple ... the presentation is straightforward, but events complicate our understanding of Shin-ae, who begins the film trying to deal with grief, only to find it nearly inescapable. There are similarities to the kinds of torments Lars von Trier loads onto many of his female characters, but Lee keeps things on a human scale, with room for light comic moments. Jeon is impeccable struggling through the trials life throws at her. There is an interesting examination of the role of religion and God in the film ... and they aren’t always the same thing. Lee is fair towards the church members, but he also gives time for more personal relations with God, all the while never taking a stand on whether or not God even exists. This is not a heart-warming movie, but neither is it a chore to sit through (although it probably runs longer than it needs to). #442 on the TSPDT 21st-century list. 8/10.
The Gleaners & I (Agnès Varda, 2000). 8/10.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001). 7/10.