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French Ennui 

Wednesday, Jul 25 2012
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1977 was a very punk year. Bands like the Germs, Crass, Bad Brains, and Black Flag were freaking out parents everywhere, and new albums that are now considered classics by the Sex Pistols and Richard Hell & the Voidoids crystallized the angst of a generation. These were the kids who wondered where the promise of the '60s had disappeared to as they lived in a world threatened by environmental destruction and nuclear warfare. Over in France, a certain 70-something filmmaker named Robert Bresson tapped into these exact worries of his much younger contemporaries in The Devil, Probably. Bresson is renowned for his sparse style that refuses to play to either human feelings or the traditional conventions of cinema, and here he cast non-actor Antoine Monnier as the main character of Charles, a teenage student whose unease with contemporary society is not cured by his dabblings in sex and drugs and psychoanalysis. Charles and his friends barely let emotion flicker across their faces as they wander around Paris and discuss deep philosophical concepts in an oh-so-French manner, and Charles's apathy (not to mention his fashion sense) could give today's hipsters a run for their money. That is precisely why the film maintains its power today. Because here we are again in a world that seems to teeter on the brink of collapse, where opportunities to practice escapism are plentiful but ultimately unsatisfying. Bresson already nailed it in the zeitgeist over 30 years ago.
Aug. 3-9, 2012

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Heidi De Vries

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