The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, November 25-December 1

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Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945)
Directed by Robert Bresson
“I’ll have my revenge.” So vows Hélène (María Casares) in the opening moments of the darkly sumptuous second feature by the then-emerging French artist and aesthete. Spurred by the cowardly admission of her lover Jean’s (Paul Bernard) lost passion, Hélène’s quest for comeuppance quickly grows perverse as she attempts to lure her former suitor into a doomed romance with Agnès (Elina Labourdette), a young proletarian whose salacious past would, if discovered, bring shame to any potential relationship. The ensuing drama––both coerced and manipulated by Hélène, to ultimately futile ends––enfolds not simply vengeful maneuvering and situational irony, but also social satire and spiritual consciousness, rendering what would otherwise be a traditional melodrama into a modern morality play replete with near-metaphysical implications. And in that sense, the film is less an outlier in Bresson’s increasingly austere catalogue than a clarion call for a new way of considering human behavior and the frame by which such fate is made manifest. Jordan Cronk (November 27, 9pm; November 29, 3pm at Anthology Film Archives’s “Jack Smith Selects (From the Grave)”)

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