Diary of a Country Priest ★★★½

Wouldn’t call it an allergy but I definitely have a Bresson roadblock. This one doesn’t suffer from the choppy and episodic approach to human cruelty that plagued Balthazar, and I was actually quite taken by the long discourse between Priest and Countess, which is the only time I can recall Bresson building drama across a scene, versus his penchant for bursts of pain and fades to black. But two other impediments remain, the first being Bresson’s vilification of a society that gathers little nuance in its barbarism (the nasty rich girl is quite the concoction, but someone needs to balance her out) - which becomes its own problem since Bresson is lauded for his veritable and unadorned depictions of torment. While I hardly trust my glowing impression of Pickpocket from forever ago, I do remember the protagonist transcending the function of whipping post, and there was something pleasurable in his un-Bressonian desire to take rather than to give. The second roadblock is that I sometimes feel like I’m watching an ascetic challenge rather than a movie. He’s choosing stories and characters with intense disciplines to match his own dogma, but I often find myself scrutinizing the unaccommodating aesthetic rather than the story. In many ways, his ambition to make films on their purest level actually takes me out of the movie. However, this one does feel like Bresson’s most complex work, the spirituality that underlines his process presented as an amorphous thing (everyone lectures our Priest on his conduct, but the job is impossible to define, i.e. thinking about praying can be praying), a calling that’s both simple and infinite, eclipsing idealism and viewing faith as a dance with death - the Priest a pale wraith dressed in black, peering out his window like a vampire trapped in his castle, though by end it’s clear that he’s really holding a mirror up to the community so that we learn not to judge, in a very biblical sense, that which we are. Pretty confident nobody could top Laydu in this role.