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 Post subject: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 2:08 pm 
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Robert Bresson (1901-1999)

When a sound can replace an image, cut the image
or neutralize it. The ear goes more towards the
within, the eye towards the outer.

~ Robert Bresson

(from Notes on the Cinematographer)

Filmography

Les affaires publiques (Public Affairs) (short, 1934)

Les anges du péché (Angels of the Streets) (1943) DVD Gallimard (R2) with English subs

Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (Ladies of the Park) (1945) Criterion (R1) / BFI (R2 UK)

Journal d'un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest) (1951) Criterion (R1)

Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut (A Man Escaped) (1956) New Yorker (R1) / Gaumont (R2 FR) – included in Coffret Bresson

Pickpocket (1959) Criterion (R1) / mk2 (R2 FR) – included in Coffret Bresson

Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (Trial of Joan of Arc) (1962) mk2 (R2 FR) – included in Coffret Bresson / Artificial Eye (R2 UK)

Au hazard Balthazar (Balthazar) (1966) Criterion (R1) / Nouveaux (R2 UK)

Mouchette (1967) Criterion (R1) / Nouveaux (R2 UK)

Une femme douce (A Gentle Woman) (1969)

Quatre nuits d'un rêveur (Four Nights of a Dreamer) (1971)

Lancelot du Lac (Lancelot of the Lake) (1974) New Yorker (R1) / Gaumont (R2 FR) – included in Coffret Bresson

Le Diable probablement (The Devil Probably) (1977) Gaumont (R2 FR) – included in Coffret Bresson

L'Argent (Money) (1983) mk2 (R2 FR) – included in Coffret Bresson / New Yorker (R1) / Artificial Eye (R2 UK)

Web Resources

Robert Bresson is well represented on the internet. Below are three of the most extensive resources. These sites include links to dozens of other articles and sites of interest.

Masters of Cinema

Senses of Cinema

Strictly Film School


Forum Discussions

Bresson on DVD

Robert Bresson and Plot (SPOILERS)

Au hasard Balthazar (Criterion)

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Criterion)

Diary of a Country Priest (Criterion)

mk2 - mention of several Bresson films released by the French label mk2

Mouchette (Criterion)

New Yorker -discussion of L'Argent

Pickpocket

Spanish editions of A Man Escaped and The Devil, Probably


Books

Notes on the Cinematographer by Robert Bresson (Quartet Books Ltd., 1986)


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:24 pm 
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I wish Tarkovsky would have elaborated on his second point.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 5:03 pm 
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I'm glad AT said that about Mouchette, which is a film that literally put me to sleep, out like a light in the Film Forum while watching. Though coming in from work off of a twelve hour shift didn't help, the film is just a single gloomy note hammered at you over and over in monotone. All of Bresson's magic, the masterful reduction towards poetical infinitude, beautiful use of sound, the sure touch in terms of topics so ripe for symbolism that meanings can be extrapolated inna thousand directions, I didn't see any of this in Mouchette. All of the poetic beauty and reductive perfection is gone, replaced by frankly wearisome bleating about the misery of life in the world. I know I said this before, but there's a couple of films he made where it seems as if the goal was to remove all possibility of entertainment, and in Mouchette and especially Trial of Joan of Arc he succeeds beyond his wildest dreams.

Thankfully he returns to form with works like A Gentle Woman and etc, which link back to masterpieces like Diary of.., Dames du Bois, A Man Escaped, Balthazaar, Pickpocket, etc. Aching to see Anges du peche..


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 9:30 pm 
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With all due respect to Schreck, (and I do respect the Schreck, demonstrated by, for example, the fact that I just bought the Edison and Judex sets, in no small part due to his advocacy), I must dissent. I find Mouchette to be sublime. I read the book (in english translation) before purchasing the dvd & seeing the film for the first time & was expecting a "frankly wearisome bleating about the misery of life in the world," what given the contents of the book & my experience with Bresson up 'till then. (Not sure where I was in my appreciation at that point - certainly loved A Man Escaped, and was under the spell of Diary of ..., and now would likely get into fisticuffs in defense of my adoration of Pickpocket. But be that as it may, I expected a fairly pained retelling of a painful narrative in Mouchette.)

Instead, I feel that I was treated to what I now regard as an existential cartoon. In the best sense of the word. Like, Beckett meets Tex Avery meets a French Catholic sensibility. (Which actually seems fairly consistent to me now, minus the Tex Avery.) I personally think that nothing in this film is "natural" - it is dressed from head to toe in a very Bressonian mannerism that is nothing like the "natural" world, but nonetheless sheds not insignificant light on the comings and goings of the "natural" world we all inhabit. (Again, like Tex Avery.) Everything strikes me as so deliberately deliberate as to be not even remotely about the small and sordid narrative it acts out. Instead, in its construction and tone, it quickly cuts to both the bitterness and absurdity of this world, resulting in a farty valentine to what we all go through.

And, honestly, I find both in Mouchette's characterization (if you can call it that) (and I mean that as a compliment to the film - it is really more of a "performance" than a characterization), a tone of defiance that keeps the film from any kind of wearisome bleating. To me, it was more of an unfliching "fuck all this," which is summed up by the final random bath & the utterly non-naturalistic movement of the water that acts like an unreal coda to a hauntingly unreal (but true) tale.

Witness, for example, the dirt-throwing scene about 14 and 1/2 minutes in. It is shot and edited to be all gesture, dirt & underpants. Nothing wearisome here - all tight edits, zooming, dirt, butts, a kind of silent "f@uck all this sh@t." And then there's her immediately subsequent take on the boy who drops his pants (in silent film/cartoon style) - I mean, Schreck, man, did you see her face? No bleating in that, except the bleating of having to live in a world of idiots, which, frankly, sometimes seems to be the world I'm living in.

No doubt that the world of the film is grim. (I found the book to be even grimmer.) But I don't think that the film itself is grim or maudlin, because I also think that, intentionally or not, Bresson's interpretation of that world is a caricature, almost to the level of what one get in the masterpiece that is Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (But not quite.) She's a bitter little wench in a world of absurdity (aren't we all?), and that, for me, is what takes the film well beyond wearisome bleating.

So says I.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 12:21 am 
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Not a Bresson fan, which might be why I find Mouchette the most tolerable of the Bresson films I've seen. ;~}


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 10:13 am 

Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 8:04 am
Quote:
An obvious but banal example of this is the rabbit hunt in Mouchette.


HerrSchreck wrote:
I'm glad AT said that about Mouchette, which is a film that literally put me to sleep, out like a light in the Film Forum while watching.


Herr Schreck, sometimes your oversimplification of arguments to support your very own (put me to sleep) personal feelings on a film is really ridiculous. Maybe i am totally off here and Tarkovsky is going deeper in the rest of the interview or somewhere else / and maybe Shreck has further proof of Tarks disslike for Mouchette in general which i do not have - but as long as you are only refering to the latter "interview" where Tark is talking about one particular and significant scene, i.e. the rabbit hunt - there is really no argument that you can borrow from Tark! I even think that Tarks criticism is the completly contrary to yours (i.e. entertainment) and Michael Kerpans post sums it up quite well. ;~}


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 12:39 pm 
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I'm sorry guys... you'd have better luck having me push a caterpillar tractor up Mt Blanc than see me get down with Mouchette. Sir Max I'd never attempt to deflate that much joy tweezed from a film experience with a more detailed negative reading of my own experience. Some are unable to process most of Bresson, Mouchette is my one major problem with the guy. I think his technique fails his subject matter-- or maybe his subject matter fails the technique (I actually think it's the latter). And I know I'm not alone in this feeling. Lord knows I'd be delighted (my avatar) to get more of Avery anywhere at anytime.

Accatone, I'm struggling to see how I "simplified" AT's argument. If I say to you "I'm glad you said you think I'm ridiculous," and then go on to explain my own reasons for wanting be thought that way by you... does that mean I'm oversimplifiying your own feelings?

I simply said "I'm glad he said that", meaning, I find comfort in the fact the guy saw some lack of success somewhere in Bresson (FYI he's listed Mouchette if memory serves as his second favorite film) and that the place that he found it is-- even if just in one single spot within the film-- in the one film I can't jive with. Finding comfort from another person's similar feelings doesn't equal simplification of them.

Lord knows I don't expect there to be consensus on anything in Bresson. It's Bresson furchrissakes...


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 1:30 pm 

Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 8:04 am
Your disslike for post Pickpocket Bressons is fully and obviously understandable i.e. the lack of classic (whatever that means) drama/play that you (correct me if i am wrong) take for entertainement. I just found it not correct to tag on Tarkovskys argument for that specific scene for your general dismissal of that film. I think its quite interesting that Tarkovsky points out that particular scene and i am keen to follow his critcism here. The rabit hunt scene, even though it appears quite randomly and almost out of context (at least in regards of the expiartion of the story) in the film, shows a certain kind of almost Disney/Bamby-like and superficial analogy (maybe thats what Tarkovskys means with Symbolism?) to whats going on in the story i.e. a young & innocent at someones mercy. I am not sure if its the same with Balthazar to at least some extent but in Mouchette this scene is definitely falling out - it cries out to the viewer: Look, something really bad is going on around here - show mercy/sympathy with the victim!!! Opposed to that scene, just take the ending that is (directed) far less pathetic but is still cristal clear and sharp in its tragic declaration.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:24 pm 
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Yeah, Schreck, I don't think I was imagining I'd talk you into it, and I do recognize that you're hardly the only one to not enjoy the film. A friend of mine sent me some comment by Rivette in which he said it is the Bresson film that he likes the least - so, add that to Tarkovsky's comment.

I just wanted to make sure that the Mouchette lovers were represented on this thread as well.

(I will also allow that my repeated invocation of Tex is perhaps overstating whatever cartoon echos I see in Mouchette. Tex is Tex & Robert is Robert. And as cartoony as I find Mouchette, she ain't no giant canary.)

Cheers.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:49 pm 
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Bergman said it was his favorite Bresson film, which makes a lot of sense (and when pressed on the subject of why Mouchette over Au Hasard Balthazar he said, effectively, that he didn't like animals)


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 7:39 pm 
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accatone wrote:
Your disslike for post Pickpocket Bressons is fully and obviously understandable i.e. the lack of classic (whatever that means) drama/play that you (correct me if i am wrong) take for entertainement. .

That's incorrect, inasmuch as it's a misreading or misassembly of words I used.

I said in Mouchette (and Proces Jeanne D'arc) Bresson seems to have set a goal for himself to remove all possibility of entertainment from his films. I'd emphatically iterate that in no way do I see the Bresson prior to this impulse as crafting "classic entertainment".. ie Hollywood melodrama (yikes). The Bressons which I love straight thru to Pickpocket and those after Jeanne are however absolutely entertaining to me.

So what I mean by "removing all possibility of entertainment", which is definitely tongue in cheek but slightly wise-assed at the same time (because I genuinely think this was the net result of actions Bresson undertook viz his narratives in the films I see in this light-- but at the same time I don't genuinely think this was Bresson's goal), is that Bresson removed all possibility of audience intercourse with those films, of positive audience engagement. That's what I mean by entertainment. I think he displayed a magical understanding & intuition vis a vis simplicity in the long string of films that preceded those 2... and went too far with those two. Like cutting blowfish or whatever the hell in sushi.. one fuckup with the knife the chef murders his patrons. The kind of simplicity employed in those films preceding Mouchette & Jeanne is magical, a tightrope act thats astonishingly tour de force. In those two films it's overboard, he seems self involved and hurled you into the desert.

I think it's a phase he needed to go thru, and his muse returned quickly and the later masterpieces are the result.

But again, this is just me. And it's Bresson. Never never let anyone upset you viz Bresson (though I shouldnt talk.. I got pissed at Hobermans way over the top statement about 'Not getting Bresson etc' which is way snobby & over the top for those who cant get down with this kind of extremely eclectic stylization which mystifies the vast portion who come into contact).


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:02 pm 
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Image Bresson

Bresson had a genius for the image, particularly in expressing volumes with such (seemingly) simple means. But I'm not sure if this exteneded to narrative - or storytelling (with the exception of Diary of A Country Priest). It's a rare combination for a director to be able to tell a great story and to present visuals that can be read on several levels: moving images that have poignancy AND versimilitude. That, to me (for what it's worth), separates a real visionary from a mere director.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:02 pm 
Bringing Out El Duende
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Tarkovsky was obviously a great admirerer of Bresson and he made one succinct comment on the man and his craft: Bresson only made a film when he felt the spiritual necessity to do so. For me, this goes a long way in explaining the spare, minimalist style and merciless rigor of a typical Bresson film. He pared everything (including what he considered his "models") down to it's essential quality. You might even say that his approach is at times morose (it's certainly perverse, as Paul Schrader says in the DVD introduction to Pickpocket). And I'm not sure that Bresson was as interested in making a "good film" as he was in making a kind of spiritual statement.

I'm not particularly fond of Mouchette, the character (individually, she has little in the way of inner resources that would arm her against a rather hostile community) - and I'm not sure Bresson is interested in our admiration of her - so I've refrained from another viewing of Mouchette (nor does the prospect of watching the trials of a donkey make a viewing of Au Hasard Balthazar likely any time soon). But as in Diary of A Country Priest, to my mind, the relationship of the main protaginist to the community - and vice-versa - is really the most vital and interesting aspect of Bresson's considerations. His formalist style is secondary, though is is a style, despite Bresson's spiritual contentions. And I think it works best in films like Pickpocket and Diary but is not so effective in L'Argent or Lancelot of The Lake, where his stylistic approach is so conspicuous that it's (frankly) almost humorous.


Last edited by ando on Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:39 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 6:35 pm 
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Quote:
Tarkovsky was obviously a great admirerer of Bresson and he made one succinct comment on the man and his craft: Bresson only made a film when he felt the spiritual necessity to do so.


I tried not to get involved in this thread but there is too much here that is provocative... Firstly, it would be nice to see some insight into Bresson's work without lazy references to religion. Secondly, it strikes me as strange that Tarkovsky of all people (!) thinks that all serious artists should strive towards simplicity. By this criterion I wonder how he must view his own work... Finally, the hunt sequence in Mouchette is there to create a parallel. As with all allegorical elements in any artwork you either accept them or you don't. It does strike me as strange, however, that Tarkovsky (again of all people) can talk of the limitations of symbolism (except when they are poetic?)... Clearly he must have liked the gardener raking leaves in Cahiers... because Andrei Rublev does the same thing.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:15 pm 

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What do spiritual necessity and religion have to do with each other? Certainly Bresson is not making these films out of "religious obligation", which seems to be how you read "spiritual necessity". I would read this reference to Bresson's spiritual necessity as an action deriving from a need to express some deeply-held notion or feeling inherent in one's mind/soul -- something any artist might do, not just one concerned with religious themes. I think it's merely distinguishing between that driving force and the films made for money, contracts, experimentation, curiosity, fun, or for the sake of the film itself.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 2:02 pm 
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Indeed. Moreover, my lazy reference, as it was so ill-phrased, completely misses the spirit of the post. Integral to the experience of watching a Bresson film is a considered form of attention which belies any attempt at the kind of reductive criticism you accuse me of making. Any attempt to understand, collate and comment on a Bresson film belies the attempt at "tossing off" some loose assessment of his work. If you expect audiences to bring a considered level of energy to a Bresson discussion how can you inspire it with such cheap approaches as "It would be nice to see some insight into Bresson's work..." and the like? If you're incensed at the apparent banality of the discussion why not demonstrate a deeper level of consideration yourself?

Re: Takovsky
Quote:
it strikes me as strange that Tarkovsky of all people (!) thinks that all serious artists should strive towards simplicity. By this criterion I wonder how he must view his own work...

Actually, he thought much of his work was quite simple. I remember one interviewer asking about the inclusion of horses in scenes in many of his films. He replied that they were there simply because he felt the impulse to include them. One interviewer asked him about the levitation scene in Mirror - why was the mother figure levitating at that precise moment? He replied that he thought it was a commonplace occurance and that it felt right. You would never hear this from Bresson, however.

All visual elements within any particular scene in a Bresson film seem to serve the needs of the scene. Bresson removes so many non-essentials, though, that one can hardly recall an inanimate object, nod or gesture by a "model" or lighting device in any one of his scenes that has no immediate justification. But you can't call him a realist, either (I dislike that term anyway), because his approach is nevertheless, highly stylized (camera placement is the first example that comes to mind). There's nothing overtly poetic about his cinema, however, his economy of style - the way his "models" move, the blocking of action, the long camera pans - conveys ordinary situations in a condensed, frighteningly formalized manner.

One of the visual aspects of L'Argent, for instance, that is readily apparent is the way people move in and around the sets. Despite the contemporary setting and the manner of movement among the modern city-dweller to which we are all accustomed, the movements are devoid of any spontaneity. There are no retracing of steps, no tripping, no hesitating among any of the models displayed. (The vocal hesitation of Joan during her interrogation in Bresson's Procès de Jeanne d'Arc comes to mind, but her hesistation is a part of the historical record - and narrative.) I can't say that Bresson's models seem stiff (incessant rehearsal had apparently loosened any joint stiffness) but they don't seem to be terribly alive, either. So I never get the feeling that I'm looking at reality. But surfaces, ultimately, seem to be of secondary importance to Bresson. Stylistically, there's not a single unessential element in any Bresson film that I've seen, of which Tarkovsky was well aware but probably incapable of conceiving and creating, despite his admiration for the older filmmaker.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:38 am 
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Forgive and/or re-direct if this isn't the proper forum for this inquiry but...

Tarkovsky/Bresson: For some reason I’ve kept returning to these two in recent days. Their films, books by them or about them. Whatever I can get my hands on. I don’t really understand this obsession but I do have a few questions to put out there:

I heard Bresson was more or less indifferent to Tarkovsky’s body of work. Would anyone be able to shed a bit of light on what his opinion of Tark was? I’m curious if it was a similar situation as with Paul Schrader where he didn’t think he had the right idea about film.

And the other question, for those a bit more learned in their respective careers, what elements do we see bleed over from Bresson’s approach to Tarkovsky’s? Where do we find evidence of influence?

And because I can’t help myself, after reading how Tarkovsky strung-up Brakhage by the wrists, I’m curious as to what he thought of his contemporaries: Lynch? Herzog (I’m thinking “Heart of Glass”)? Not a contemporary but also Cocteau? Victor Erice? Abbas Kiarostami?

I know now, at least, that he was a fan of the first Terminator.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:50 am 
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I'd have to go back over the relevant texts & vids to refresh a foggy cabeza, but I'm sure you already know-- for starters-- that Diary of a Country Priest was AT's favorite film, period.. followed by Bergman's Winter Light (either that or I have it reversed and WL was #1 and the Bresson #2.. at this level of appreciation it matters little anyway).

First and foremost, it would seem to me, just from the perspective of an observer, that AT's interest would stem from his sympathy with a number of conceits that were deeply integrated into Bresson's style-- foremost among them would be the use of ambiguity as a narrative device. I'd heard it mentioned that Bresson is part of a tradition that stretches back to Jean Epstein, in the usage of ambiguity not only for poetical but concrete narrative purposes. This need to activate the imagination whereby the cognitive functions of the viewer are simultaneously 1)prompted to fill in blanks while 2) under the near-hypnotic influence of deliberately mesmerizing imagery. It doesn't seem to be enough merely to locate the viewer's imagination via active contribution to the narrative (maing the experience for the viewer that much more personal)... the goal seems to be to do so after first (or while) getting them into a state of a kind almost opiated dreaminess.

Most filmmakers are concerned with storytelling-- the emotional impact of a tale well told. And perhaps the moral statement within aforesaid. The filmmaker of the Bressonian/Tarkovskian type, however, seems to me to be more concerned with duplicating for the viewer, onscreen, the artistic sensations they themselves receive daily by life's input. A walk down a street, across a field, five minutes staring at an discarded old paper cup on an abandoned contry road, a conversation with mother, etc, impacts them in a way that has, since they were young, prompted within them an urge to create... create a means of passing that experience along. They have the urge to propagate, to procreate-- they feel the life process in a fashion that they know (or believe) is unlike that of their neighbor.. and their art is their method of explaining why they are the way they are, trying to express the best they can--by duplicating-- what it is they are experiencing that excites them so, what it is that they think that they have within them that is a valuable currency, that by their obvious self-posession they're not just pompous or mad dreamers lost on a tangent.

This is not to say that the two men did not have strong social concerns, did not construct plot-driven narratives-- indeed these plots and narratives are very important quite simply because they are something that they themselves were involved with. They're part of the whole project for self-revelation, vehicles for the relief of communication out of what is probably, in p2p terms, very often a lonely and unreached interior world.

Another shared conceit between the two men is the concern with time and it's unfolding within the narrative. AT expressed this via the use of the extended shot and gentle tracking movements... Bresson through the use of offsreen sound, and events and individuals hardly shown or not shown at all.

My own opinion.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:41 am 
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Here's Tarkovsky's top 10:

1. Le Journal d'un curé de campagne
2. Winter Light
3. Nazarin
4. Wild Strawberries
5. City Lights
6. Ugetsu Monogatari
7. Seven Samurai
8. Persona
9. Mouchette
10. Woman of the Dunes (Teshigahara)


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:44 pm 
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In addition to those, Tarkovosky was extremely supportive of Paradzhanov's work, and I seem to recall he assessed his films with similarly extravagant praise at one point. (I also vaguely recall that Muratova was the only other Soviet filmmaker of his generation that he particularly esteemed).

He was extremely snobbish about a lot of cinema, and tended to dismiss stuff he didn't absolutely love (or 'get' - see Brakhage) as trash. Bresson seems to have been even more stingy with praise for his fellow filmmakers (John Glen aside).

Tarkovsky's respect for Bresson didn't prevent him being extremely pissed off with what he perceived to be Bresson's self-serving manoeuvring at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival (announcing L'Argent as his final film and declaring that he wouldn't be happy with anything less than the Palme d'Or), which he felt harmed his own chances with Nostalghia. As a kind of poetic justice, Imamura took the Palme and the two clashing egos got to share Best Director.

For me, they're very different filmmakers, but what they share for me is an intense physicality. Some sequences in their work are more tactile than almost anything else in narrative cinema. They actually share this kind of immediacy with some of the best experimental filmmakers, which is why the Tarkovsky / Brakhage run-in always seemed particularly amusing: if any narrative filmmaker should have been able to appreciate Brakhage's work, it was the director of Mirror.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:53 pm 
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zedz wrote:
For me, they're very different filmmakers, but what they share for me is an intense physicality. Some sequences in their work are more tactile than almost anything else in narrative cinema. They actually share this kind of immediacy with some of the best experimental filmmakers, which is why the Tarkovsky / Brakhage run-in always seemed particularly amusing: if any narrative filmmaker should have been able to appreciate Brakhage's work, it was the director of Mirror.


I have to disagree with you here (or at least I think I'm disagreeing with you). I stopped loving Tarkovsky long ago because of what I see as his aversion to physicality, or maybe "materiality" is the word I'm looking for. He deals in dreams and memory, and they can be strikingly realized, but his images always seem to be shielded from the immediate, the present. He's too guarded, and it's like he's built a picket fence around his cinema in an attempt to keep out the uncontrollable nature of chaotic reality. I use "picket fence" because all I see in his films now are the empty slats where gritty reality should be. The exceptions are parts of Ivan's Childhood and the opening speech therapy scene of The Mirror. And I fully owe up to my evolving bias, because Mirror used to be one of my top 5 films.

Bresson and Brakhage, on the other hand, lay out the materiality and immediacy of their images so nakedly that it can be painful. Brakhage, especially- he started scratching and gluing on film emulsion because he wanted to get rid of the space/time between subject and camera.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 12:48 am 
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zedz wrote:
(I also vaguely recall that Muratova was the only other Soviet filmmaker of his generation that he particularly esteemed).

I've often seen it referenced that he gave strong praise to My Friend, Ivan Lapshin, although I've never been able to locate the source of this myself. (And a quick search brings up the Harvard Film Archive mentioning he admired Twenty Years Without War)


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 3:00 am 

Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:39 pm
I've just finished reading his diaries. In general, Tarkovsky didn't seem to think much of (his then) contemporary Russian filmmakers. I don't know enough of the history to comment, but he certainly believed a number prominent directors sided with the government and actively criticised his work, at the behest of the government, sabotaged his chances of distribution and festival screenings, and possible awards. (Certainly, the government denied major festival screenings of his films) My impression is that, once he was allowed to travel outside of Russia, he embraced the role of victim/ tortured artist, especially after he seemed to be unanimously praised by Western media. What I mean is, after seeing how 'important' filmmakers were being feted and fawned over, he felt frustrated and (at times) helpless. I was struck by how he began to address himself in the third person, especially when speaking of other filmmakers and festival organizers comments about him. An insignificant point, but then again, perhaps not.

He came across at times as a thorny character, and while he spoke often of being betrayed, he quite often criticised and backstabbed those who didn't or couldn't help his cause, including friends.

I'm still digesting the books contents, having watched all of his film, apart from The Sacrifice, over the last month. I can't recommend the diaries enough. A wonderful read, offering, perhaps, the best insight into the man and his films.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Bresson
PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 2:18 pm 
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Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 10:09 am
I'm not sure whether this is the right thread for asking this. Anyway, last night I watched "The Trial of Joan of Arc" for the first time, and let me briefly state that I actually felt like ' the rabbit before the snake' as we say in German (perhaps also in English, don't know really), i.e. I was totally captivated by the intensity AND the simplicity of Bresson's way of telling the tale. There's little than can be 'discussed' about the film or its meaning in my view; in this respect I agree with Schreck, there's little or no room for audience engagement or interaction, though I definitely felt 'entertained'. But I had to take the film as just a perfect artistic statement on the part of Bresson, as unassailable as Dreyer's "Gertrud", but for me, far, far easier to approach.

However, great as the film was, my real excitement started when I watched one of the extras on the AE disc, that is, the lengthy discussion about the story of Joan. To illustrate the story they repeatedly showed excerpts from a 1928 silent version called "La merveilleuse vie de Jeanne d'Arc", directed by Marco de Gastyne and apparently made as a rival production to Dreyer's version, but released later and since then obviously overshadowed by Dreyer's film. Anyway, brief as these excerpts where, I found them quite stunning (with about the sexiest Joan I ever saw, judging from these short clips); great camerawork, apparently good acting and sets, too. As I had never even heard about the film before (if it's mentioned in the audiocommentary to the CC "Jeanne", I have completely forgotten about it), can someone comment on it? I suppose it's not out on dvd somewhere? A reviewer on imdb says it has recently been restored.


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