Here's the first page from the thread on the old forum, courtesy of Google's in cache.
You can read my interview with Kate Elmore in the News section of http://www.robert-bresson.com
I've only seen 2 Bresson films so far (Les Dames... and Au Hasard Balthazar). I thought there were some incredible moments in Balthazar, but it wasn't something I could really connect with as a whole. Does Diary of a Country Priest have a similar episodic structure and distant approach to the characters. Basically, I'm gonna be the tool who asks, "Is Diary of a Country Priest a good blind buy?" (for someone who hasn't been too enthusiastic about his previous encounter with Bresson). I would like to add that, while Balthazar left me a little cold, it was one of those rare experiences when I knew I would have to revisit the film later, you know, sometime when I'm of legal car-renting age.
Bresson was a stringently rigorous filmmaker with an aesthetic system all his own. It included dedramatization techniques like using nonprofessional actors and "flat" readings because Bresson believed actors in the theatrical tradition were too self-conscious and demonstrative compared to people in real life. He always used a 50mm lense because it's the lense which most accurately reflects human vision, he labored over the sounds in his films like most filmmakers do their visuals. Moreover, he told stories elliptically, leaving out a great deal of narrative detail and action in order to promote more engagement from the viewer. His films are demanding, but their meanings expand with time and reflection and repeated exposure. I guarantee Balthazar will grow in meaning for you if you think about it some more, read a few essays to kickstart the process, and rewatch the film in a few weeks or months or years. Les Dames, in some ways, is a more "minor" work--it's really too bad Criterion started out with that release for those of you whose introduction to film history is predominantly defined by their spine numbers.
It's not that Bresson makes inscrutable or intellectual fillms, they just deal with very interior subjects that require time to sink in and take root. Bresson is my favorite filmmaker, but several of his films left me very puzzled and confused the first time I saw them. Over the years, those mysterious elements took on very profound implications. In short, you may not be "wowed" by Bresson after watching a couple of his films--it takes a long term commitment to fully appreciate what he is doing.
meade roberts wrote:
"Basically, I'm gonna be the tool who asks, "Is Diary of a Country Priest a good blind buy?" (for someone who hasn't been too enthusiastic about his previous encounter with Bresson)."
to answer your question, yes. the priest is more sophisticated than the dames and more immediately engaging than the donkey. also, i recommend a man escaped as another earlyish (but fully bressonian) film that'll help you get over your feelings of insecurity and help you to win your Criterion Eagle Scout Bresson Badge.
don't worry, soon you will understand that bresson is the one true way.
Diary of a Country Priest is a masterpiece. Same as Balthazar and A Man Escaped. In these, the de-dramatization of the situation and characters work perfectly.
But if you already find Balthazar not very engaging, then you will REALLY hate "Mouchette" and "Pickpocket". IMO, those two could have been acted by sockpuppets. And, despite the urgings of other Criterion forum members, repeat viewings of both actually make me feel that they are almost on the verge of parody (though at least Pickpocket has some incredible montage of the act of swiping).
Thankfully, those are the only two Bressons that my stomach couldn't take. But considering how revered Bresson is here, I'm sure this is all a great blasphemy :p
Why is that most people consider BALTHAZAR as Bresson's best film? Please explain. I saw BALTHAZAR last year and loved it to death. But the only problem I have with this film is acting. Gerard.. what a horrible actor. Then I saw DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST around last Thanksgiving and that changed everything...it IS Bresson's BEST work.. period. Everything about this film is luminous.. just perfect. So smooth, silvery, amazing. Claude Laydu - God, what a beautiful man. No man has been captured by camera more beautifully than him. The camera is so in love with him. His performance is very elegant and moving. There is nothing like this profoudly spiritual masterpiece. Isn't DIARY supposed to be Tarkovsky's favorite film of all time? If so, I'm not surprised if that's the film where he gets the inspiration for ANDREI RUBLEV. I would take DIARY over BALTHAZAR anytime... it's so much richer.
Why is Gerard a bad actor? It seems like stereotypical Bressonian acting to me(lack of emotion, etc.).
Bresson would take this as a big compliment. Bad actor - good model.
Gerard really throws me out of BALTHAZAR ...Not sure if it's his acting or his personality. (Need to revisit that movie.) I find Marie somewhat annoying..she's kinda stupid but you know, some young people can be like that. But the donkey makes up a lot of this film. I feel so much for the donkey and if that's what Bresson intends for BALTHAZAR, then he truly succeeds. Don't get me wrong, I love BALTHAZAR; it is eloquently directed. But DIARY is much more breathtaking. DIARY miraculously glows with every scene with Claude. If Bresson thinks "bad actor - good model", then that doesn't apply to Claude because his performance is magnificently god-like. I really can't wait to experience that again when DIARY comes out on DVD.
By the way, how is PICKPOCKET?
Even though the DVD comes out in a few weeks, I decided to watch the film on VHS again this morning. All I have to say that the film is a miracle itself. I'm very blessed to be alive to see the Criterion Collection containing the three most spiritual films ever made - PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST and ANDREI RUBLEV.
It would be nice if the ancient rumor of Criterion releasing ERASERHEAD was true because that's another great spiritual film.. it doesn't look like it but it is. It's a very Catholic film - sin, guilt, acceptance, sacrifice, etc. What about CRIES AND WHISPERS...would you call it a "spiritual" film? I need to see it again.
Do you find Passion... more spiritual than Ordet?
I don't see how Winter Light is any less spiritual then the ones you mentioned. And many others. But you probably just forgot to write the word "favorite" infront of them, right?
Haven't seen ORDET yet but will look for it. I can't image a more spiritual Dreyer film than PASSION.
WINTER LIGHT ... Too icy cold to be spiritually moving at all. Maybe I'm wrong but I remember after finishing it, I felt blank, cold, distant, numb...But with CRIES AND WHISPERS, the very last shot of the women on the swing..now that's spiritually moving especially after 1.1/2 hours of total darkness.
OK, it seems we understand "spiritual" differently. For me it doesn't have to do with "moving" me. I was never moved by Rublev but it's still spiritual - but not as Nostalghia or Sacrifice, IMO. Winter Light (also in Tarkovsky's top 10) is no less spiritual then Diary, and I was moved by both.
I don't think that Cries and Whispers has much to do with themes explored in WL, Diary or Ordet. Sure, it's spiritual to some extend (we all know remember that scene very well) - almost any Bergman is - but it's mainly about human condition.
Of course, we understand "spiritual" differently. WINTER LIGHT - Ingrid Thulin radiates some warmth in this icy cold film but the priest fails to embrace that.. it left me so sad and cold. But you know what? I'm an atheist and WINTER LIGHT reflects the very reason why I'm one. All those dull, empty Masses I had to suffer through for the first 18 years of my life - all for the sake of my grandmother - simply because I love her. Sounds like I need to revisit WINTER LIGHT.
I find CRIES AND WHISPERS deeply spiritual...I think it's about faith and the sisters lack of that.
The unique thing about DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST is that it's pure spiritual not in the words of the priest but in the way the camera captures the priest.. it's not about listening to his words (even though they are great), it's about experiencing him visually. Beautiful.
ANDREI RUBLEV - the artist's discovery of inspiration and faith in his work through a simple village boy never fails to break my heart. I cry every time the camera swoops away from the boy lying on the ground by the bell tower.
You HAVE to see Ordet! You'll be instantly converted - it's one of the most effective films ever made on turning people to the divine.
One suggestion: don't read ANY liner notes before you watch it!
Have to agree - reading liner notes, comments, reviews, or anything else about Ordet really screws up the experience. I made that mistake
meade roberts wrote:
I know, I know. This doesn't belong in this thread, but as long as we're on the subject, and as long as you're an atheist, don't be turned off by the idea that Ordet turns people on to the divine. Dreyer himself did not intend for an especially evangelical effect.
To get back on topic though, I will say that I find Diary much more immediately enjoyable than almost any other Bresson film, including Balthazar, but with the possible/ probable exception of A Man Escaped. Pickpocket is also astonishing, but it holds its many secrets close to the vest. People speak at length of Bresson's being difficult, and this is certainly true, but Diary is really the first Bresson film I saw in which I felt I could watch and experience his vision without having to consciously suspend my usual moviewatching prejudices about conventional film acting, editing, etc.
Highway 61 wrote:
I know I'm new here, but I hope you don't mind me asking you some personal questions. Anywho, I myself am 17 and a confirmed Catholic--by my own choice, not my parents--and have attended Catholic schools all my life, so I'm sorry to say I've never had much of a serious discussion with an atheist.
Reading your post, however, made me wonder what these religious films offer that sets them apart so that you--as an atheist--find them "moving." Obviously, you're not simply admiring the craftsmanship invested in the films, but instead connect with specific spiritual aspects in them. I'm curious what exactly it is that you connect with.
It's a good thing that you're a confirmed Catholic by choice.. I believe that you can be spiritual without believing in God.. I do not believe in God simply because it's "invented" by tons of organized religions. Organized religions don't do anything for me. Organized religions aren't any different from governments. I attended many different churches and not one succeeded in making me a believer in God. BUT I consider myself "spiritual" ... it's a personal thing. I believe in faith and that's about it. Doing good things, being a good person.. that's all it matters. I was raised in a Catholic home and also Catholic schools and I saw a monstrous load of hypocrisy. Of course, a lot of that "belief" is internalized in me from all that brainwashing but when I see films like MIRROR or DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST, I feel so spiritually rejuvenated ...You see, MIRROR is profoundly spiritual without speaking the word - God. Maybe it's because I'm a film nut.. I don't know but I find something in those films that is missing from all the talks I had with hundreds of priests. Everyone finds spirituality in different forms.. I find mine in art, specifically cinema. Being spiritual to me is about changing and enlightening myself for better and to be in close touch with the living world. Most of all, it's about making and keeping peace with myself. I could go on and on but it's close to 4 am here.. Time for bed. Highway61, welcome to the forum.
One more thing...I have seen millions, millions of crucifixes throughout my life in tons of churches, homes, schools, etc.. not one touched my soul til I saw the final scene of DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST.. that one big nameless cross did something to me..I was full of tears - just by looking at that one cross. That changed me. Why that cross out of millions? I don't know.