For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Robert Bresson’s “The Devil, Probably”

“How to account for the intensity of feeling this film inspires?”
The DailyThe Devil, Probably

"The Devil, Probably [1977], one of the great Robert Bresson's greatest, and least-seen, movies gets a week-long run (April 20-26) in the midst of BAMcinématek's Bresson retrospective — resplendent in a new 35mm print and hailed by no less an authority than Richard Hell as 'the most punk movie ever made.'" J Hoberman for Artinfo: "Like all Bresson's movies, The Devil, Probably is a drama of faith so formally rigorous and uncompromising as to border on the absurd — a Dostoyevskian story of a tormented soul presented in the stylized manner of a medieval illumination. At once chic and austere, The Devil, Probably is a generic youth movie set in a Parisian student milieu where long-haired panhandlers play their bongos by the Seine while sinister nihilists mock religion by planting pornographic photos in church documents. Opening with a newspaper headline (YOUTH KILLS SELF IN PÈRE LACHAISE CEMETERY), it unfolds in flashback to detail the events leading up to demise of its androgynous protagonist Charles, played by Antoine Monnier, a non-actor and the great-grandson of Henri Matisse."

For Artforum, Dennis Lim in one of the best pieces we've seen from him in quite some time (and yes, that's saying lots):

Bresson influenced almost every major French filmmaker who came after him (beginning with Louis Malle, his onetime assistant, and Jean-Luc Godard, one of his most perceptive critics), but The Devil, Probably seems to have special significance for those who encountered it at a formative age. Claire Denis, an extra on 1971's Four Nights of a Dreamer, has said that The Devil, Probably was the first film in which she saw her generation onscreen. It's a clear touchstone for the cinema of Leos Carax, who absorbed its anguish and infused it with a mad romanticism. Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval's recent Low Life, a haunting meditation on the possibility of youthful resistance, is essentially an elaborate riff on — or an urgent sequel to — The Devil, Probably. Olivier Assayas has written eloquently of his complicated relationship with the film, first rejecting it and then over time coming to regard the troubled Charles as "the truest portrait" of his younger self; Assayas's most autobiographical film, Cold Water, owes a debt to The Devil, Probably, as will, perhaps, his upcoming Something in the Air, a coming-of-age story in the context of 70s youth culture.

How to account for the intensity of feeling this film inspires? Speaking from experience, I can only suggest that for those on its wavelength, The Devil, Probably has the force of a revelation, even on repeat encounters. It's an existentialist horror movie, complete with zombielike cast and looming apocalypse, and in place of scare tactics, a brutal, breathtaking logic and concision….

Thirty-five years on, The Devil, Probably can still trigger a shock of recognition: Charles's world is ours. "There won't be any revolution — it's too late," someone says, succinctly articulating a generational tragedy that became a fact of life.

Carry on reading: Alt Screen's posted an extensive roundup.

Update, 4/25: Jeff Nagy for the BOMBlog on both The Devil, Probably and L'argent: "Prescient at their making, they now register almost with a visually sumptuous, psychically nauseous déjà-vu."

For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

Thanks for the heads up, never heard of this gem before.

Please to add a new comment.

Latest News