282) Diary of a Country Priest (1951) Dir: Robert Bresson Date Released: April 1954 Date Seen: September 6, 2009 Rating: 2.5/5
Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest is only consistently effective in conveying the crippling soul sickness of Father of Ambricourt (Claude Laydu) when its silent. Its initial reliance on insinuations supplied by brusque encounters with parishioners and hyper-melancholic journal entries that go beyond manic depression into emo hysteria is genuinely enthralling. In these scenes, Bresson's fetishization of Carl Dreyer's instrumental use of close-ups are appropriate, if not a bit hard to swallow, because they visually reflect the Father's self-fashioned image as a martyr. Once the film begins to relate the Father's anguish through long-winded conversations that start out coherent and ends up bafflingly cryptic dialogue, then I start to tune out. By that point, the sight of Laydu's face in close-up looks the son of a German Expressionist monster has a bad case of gas. I'm bitter because I cared.