“You don’t seem to realize where a woman’s scorn can lead.”
A vengeful socialite (Maria Casares) plots to ruin her ex-lover (Paul Bernard) by scheming to have him fall in love with a penniless ex-prostitute (Elina Labourdette).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- French Films
- Love Triangle
- Robert Bresson Films
As noted so accurately in Jeff Stafford’s DVD review for TCM, this early film by minimalist French director Robert Bresson evokes nothing less than “a Joan Crawford forties melodrama but without the histrionics, rendered in a cold, dispassionate style.” With shades of Les liaisons dangereuses in its cold-blooded storyline, Les Dames… is essentially a tale of female vengeance taken to tragic extremes, as Casares stops at nothing to assuage her damaged pride. The highly stylized characters and dialogue (a strategic decision on Bresson’s part) make it difficult to connect with the story, which we watch with morbidly detached fascination rather than personal recognition. Bresson wouldn’t become internationally recognized until the release of Diary of a Country Priest in 1951, which is probably a better movie for film fanatics to start with when exploring his oeuvre.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Maria Casares as Helene
- Jean Cocteau’s pithy dialogue: “There’s no such thing as love — only proofs of love.”
No, but film fanatics will likely be curious to check it out at some point, as Bresson’s first significant film. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.