Sunday, October 08, 2006

Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971)

Four Nights of a Dreamer (Robert Bresson, 1971)
French Title: Quatre nuits d'un rêveur

After tackling Dostoyevsky with A Gentle Woman (1969), Robert Bresson follows it up with another adaptation of the Russian writer's work. Four Nights of a Dreamer has less of A Gentle Woman's mortal themes and dire scenarios, and instead Bresson creates his sarcastic, ironic romantic comedy (well, it's certainly not your typical comedy but the film is indeed funny). The plot is spread throughout four nights, as the title suggests, wherein a man finds and loses love.

The man is Jacques (Guillaume des Forêts), a painter who seems to have trouble finding love. He admits that he is never in love with women, but to an ideal woman. At one scene, he glances on a beautiful girl shopping and as she walks past, decides to stalk her until another beautiful woman passes his fancy, for which he changes targets. Jacques is definitely a dreamer and lives in a fantasy he has created for himself, and hasn't quite perfected. His loft is riddled with unfinished paintings, and whenever a visitor arrives, he hides them. It's as if Jacques is always trapped in a perpetual search for perfection and even in his art, he can't really achieve --- very similar to the way he discards a romantic attraction when another beautiful woman passes by. Being a dreamer, a person in an everlasting search for an unattainable ideal, Jacques ultimately is never in love. He finds the girl she is stalking to an older individual, and upon arriving home, he voice records a perfect scenario wherein that girls decides to just suddenly elope with him. He plays the recorded scenario over and over while he paints, capsulating him inside a dream that he has created himself.

One night, Jacques saves Marthe (Isabelle Weingarten) from suicide. Marthe is the exact opposite of Jacques, a woman who is bored to her wits and forces herself to fall in love with her mother's boarder (Maurice Monnoyer) just to get away. She is a dreamer herself as when the boarder moves to America, promising her that upon his return they'll get married, she wraps her entire existence on that dream that when she hears news that the boarder finally returned and she never got a word from him, she decides to just commit suicide. Yet unlike Jacques who insists on ideals, Marthe is grounded on reality and knows the hierarchy of life and fantasy.

It's an entirely humorous proposition by Bresson that Jacques falls in love with Marthe, who remains in love with her lover. Bresson interrupts possible moments of romance with what is typically suited for such scenes. One night wherein Jacques would finally uncover his love for Marthe, a cruise ship passes by and the sound of Brazilian musicians singing a lovers' tune would interrupt his endeavor. Every night, Bresson plays a cruel joke against the male dreamer and climaxes his clever satire when Jacques finally gets what he wants.

Jacques and Marthe walk as a couple when the boarder shows up, and calls Marthe. Typically, the sacrifices Jacques has already made would ensure Marthe's changed loyalties, but Bresson, in an ingenious attack against romanticism and lovers' dreams, insists on the illogical. Marthe walks towards the boarder and gives him a torrid kiss, returns to Jacques and pecks him a number of times and in a twist of human unpredictability, returns to boarder and walks away with him. Jacques is left a dreamer in search for that perfect ideal that may never arrive.

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