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A Gentle Woman (1969)
"Une femme douce" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  27 May 1971 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 1,047 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 11 critic

A young woman kills herself, leaving no explanation to her grief-stricken pawnbroker husband. We learn in flashback about how they met, married, and how she failed to adapt her lifestyle to... See full summary »

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Title: A Gentle Woman (1969)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Elle
Guy Frangin ...
Luc, son mari
Jeanne Lobre ...
Anna, la bonne
Claude Ollier ...
Le médecin
Jacques Kébadian ...
Le dragueur
Gilles Sandier ...
Le maire
Dorothée Blanck ...
L'infirmière (as Dorothée Blank)
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Storyline

A young woman kills herself, leaving no explanation to her grief-stricken pawnbroker husband. We learn in flashback about how they met, married, and how she failed to adapt her lifestyle to his. Disgusted with his attempts to dominate her, she considered murdering him, but found herself unable to do it... Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

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Drama

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Release Date:

27 May 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Une femme douce  »

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Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Robert Bresson chose Dominique Sanda just as a result of her first voice call. See more »

Goofs

(at about 18 minutes) Guy and Dominique swap places in their cinema seats before they are actually seen to do so in the final shot of that scene. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Road to Bresson (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Powerful and haunting
23 July 2007 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Based on a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Robert Bresson's A Gentle Woman is the story of Elle (Dominique Sanda), a beautiful young woman who, without any forewarning, jumps to her death from the balcony of her Paris apartment. We do not see the actual event, only a hand opening a door, a table falling over, a flower pot breaking, and a white scarf floating limply through the air. Her story is told almost matter-of-factly by her husband Luc (Guy Frangin) to his maid (Jeanne Lobre) as he stands by her bed next to the body but we are no clearer about the "why" at the end than we were at the beginning.

Although the film is Bresson's first in color and perhaps more accessible than many of his films, it is also full of his typically enigmatic details and coincidences that may be clues to the fate of the characters. Like most of his films, the actors are non-professionals with the exception of Ms. Sanda and the performances are emotionally detached yet rich in nuance and body language and the overall experience is powerful and haunting. In flashback, we discover that her husband Luc is a pawnbroker and the two meet when she comes to his store to sell a crucifix. The distinction between her spiritual nature and his obsession with material things is apparent when he strips off the plastic statue of Jesus, keeping only the gold cross that he deems to be of some value.

Moved by her poverty and enamored with her striking features, he pays more than the cross is worth, but she returns it to him saying that she cannot be bought. Though he pursues her with determination, Elle at first resists. "You don't want love", she tells him. "You want me to agree to marry you." Luc insists that he can take her away from her sordid surroundings and provide her with a home, saying, "Say yes and you can leave here forever." And she at last agrees but it is clear from the beginning that the marriage is a mismatch and throughout the film, Bresson conveys a growing mood of claustrophobia and growing oppressiveness. Luc appeals to her spiritual nature by taking her to museums, operas, and plays and buying her phonograph records but there is something missing.

On the surface he loves her, but he is cold, humorless, and unable to understand or meet her deepest needs. On the other hand, Elle is withdrawn, given to long periods of silence, and makes little attempt to communicate her feelings. Indeed, she may be clinically depressed, but Bresson deals with people's problems in existential rather than psychological terms. "For myself", he has said, "there is something which makes suicide possible, almost inevitable – the feeling of void which is impossible to bear." Perhaps Bresson views suicide, at least on one level, as an act of spiritual redemption and A Gentle Woman may have that implication, though the film is very much open to interpretation.

One day Elle picks up a gun and points it at Luc but cannot pull the trigger. Inevitably they fight over money and his jealousy surfaces when he discovers her sitting with a young man in a parked car, even though he hears her reject the man's advances. When she becomes ill, he is generous in providing treatment and the relationship seems to be moving in the right direction until, both fearful of intimacy and afraid of being alone, something within her snaps. Mentally confused or perhaps clear for the first time, she steps out onto the balcony and finds her way home.


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