- Rated: Unrated
- Run Time: 1 hours, 25 minutes
- Video: Black & White
- Released: March 11, 2003
- Originally Released: 1944
- Label: Criterion
- Encoding: Region 1 (USA & Canada)
- Packaging: Keep Case
- Single Side - Dual Layer
- Aspect Ratio: Full Frame - 1.33
- Text/Photo Galleries:
- Francois Truffaut - Film Critic
- David Thomson - Film Critic
Performers, Cast and Crew:
USA Today - 04/21/1995
"...A masterful, highly accessible collaboration between Jean Cocteau and director-screenwriter Robert Bresson..."
Premiere - 06/01/2003
"...This 1945 melodrama positively seethes whenever impossibly beautiful Maria Casares, as a remarkably perverse scorned woman, is onscreen..."
Uncut - 10/01/2004
"[With a] near-noirish lustre..."
This early work from French master filmmaker Robert Bresson offers a moody, poignant depiction of a scorned woman's attempt to manipulate her ex-lover. The treacherous Helene (Maria Casares) financially supports Agnes (Elina Labourdette), a young dancer with a "bad reputation." Helene plots to make Jean (Paul Bernard), the man who recently broke up with her, fall for Agnes--and then reveal to him the "secret" of Agnes's tawdry past. Jean easily takes the bait, but Agnes isn't willing to play along. Agnes finally responds to Jean's overtures, as Helen lies in wait, eager to expose Agnes's past and wreck Jean's life.
LES DAMES is the sole collaboration of two French cinema giants: Robert Bresson and Jean Cocteau. Cocteau wrote the wonderfully poetic dialogue for the film, while Bresson scripted and directed. The film bears strong connections to other classic works by both men. Like other Bresson heroes and heroines, Helen is obsessed by a single idea. She intends to make the man who broke up with her suffer by introducing him to a pretty "tramp"--a girl who actually hopes to bury her past--and have him fall deeply in love with her. Once the couple unites, Helene will alert her ex to the girl's former activities, and ruin his status-conscious life.
Helene's sense of having a "mission" is reflected in the prison break planned by the hero of A MAN ESCAPED, and the quiet crimes committed by the hero of PICKPOCKET. The obsessive and potentially dangerous way that Helen's ex rushes headlong into his passion for the one-time "tramp" prefigures the classically-themed romances in Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and ORPHEUS. One element in the sumptuously photographed LES DAMES became common in both artists' repertoire: the presentation of characters who behave as if they're in a dream, sleepwalking their way to potential disaster or salvation.
- Produced near the end of Germany's occupation of France during World War II.
- This is Bresson's second feature film and the last in which he used professional actors and shot in a studio.
- LES DAMES was a commercial failure when first released, but subsequently acquired a very positive reputation when shown in retrospectives, thanks to the success of Bresson's later films and appreciative articles on the film by major French critics (including later filmmaker Francois Truffaut).
- Bresson and Cocteau based their screenplay for LES DAMES on an incident in Denis Diderot's JACQUES LE FATALISTE.
- Begun before the Liberation of France from the Nazis, the film was temporarily abandoned for a few months, and then shooting began again, from scratch.