Robert Bresson, his detractors would say, has a lot to answer for. In 13 films over 40 years, he developed the whole slim repertoire of exalted minimalism. Blank glances that suggest both sanctity and reproach; pregnant silences that speak libraries of meaning; an hour of mundane injustices that often explode into beatings, murders, suicides galore—these have become the vocabulary, the very clichés, of European and Asian art-house cinema. But just as we needn’t hold Steven Spielberg accountable for every crappy-sappy kids’ adventure, we shouldn’t blame Bresson for creating an art form that literally hundreds of imitators reduced to non-movie sterility. Bresson’s films, however austere and obsessed with each man’s own private Calvary, have a precision of imagery, an understanding of character, that gives them life, makes them a joy to watch. Mouchette, one of the purest Bressons, is the story of a teenage outcast (Nadine Nortier) so abused by everyone in her village that death seems like God’s caress, and so maladroit that she must try three times before she succeeds in drowning herself. Its effect as you watch it is beautifully unforgiving; as you recall it, brutally radiant.