Having largely focused on literary adaptations from 1951’s Diary of a Country Priest through 1974’s Lancelot du Lac, Robert Bresson turned his attention to the politics of the present with this seminal, searing send-up of post-’68 France. Our protagonist is Charles, a young man adrift who tries out a variety of activities to lend meaning to his life: drugs, psychoanalysis, ecology, radical politics… With surgical precision (and, contrary to his reputation, a sense of humor), Bresson vividly chronicles how Charles and his similarly listless fellow travelers come to know firsthand the emptiness of modern existence, and the question becomes not so much how to cope but rather how to escape. Perhaps Bresson’s most explicitly political film, and among the most chilling cinematic portraits of a historical moment.
“Shooting this film in 1977 was a crazy act of clairvoyance. The film is punk, ecological, romantic, radical, desperate, and yet endowed with the energy and vitality of rebellion.” — Bertrand Bonello