Author Topic: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence  (Read 6157 times)

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Seraphim

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Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2004, 08:47:10 AM »
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Yihaaaaa!!!  (eeuhh..common Dutch expression, or something like that).  :roll:

They are finally releasing Bresson-films on Region 2!!

The first Bresson-Box to be brought out (I believe in May 2004) contains three films:

-Un Condamné à Mort s'Est Échappé ou Le Vent Souffle Où il Veut (A Man Escaped)
-Le Diable Probablement (The Devil, Probably)
-Lancelot du Lac

Since this is a First Box, I expect more to come (what a stupid remark, this must be my most stupid... ever).

Only problem, I don't know really which distributor delivers these boxes.
Whas it Artificial Eye? Don't know, to be honest.

By the way, these boxes (or at least the fisrt one) already are brought out in Asia (or at least Korea)...

YES, my live will finally be a little more complete in about a month or two. :)

Europe finally seems to wake up, with DVD-releases of all the "less known" film masters to come (Ozu, Dreyer). :)
Well, better late than never.
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Stefen

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Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2004, 06:43:08 PM »
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I'm thinking about blind buying diary of a country priest. I really like the stills I have seen. You know that feeling where you want to see something just cause you have this feeling you need to see it?
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Florya Naoki

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Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #17 on: October 03, 2004, 12:50:21 PM »
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Mouchette and Au Hasard Baltazhar are out on Region 2-DVD in November.
I really can't wait...

samsong

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Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #18 on: October 03, 2004, 03:31:29 PM »
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Quote from: Florya Naoki
Mouchette and Au Hasard Baltazhar are out on Region 2-DVD in November.
I really can't wait...


You might as well wait for Criterion's inevitable releases, as they WILL be superior both in terms of video/audio and features... and I'm willing to bet their cover art for both titles will be a lot better too.

That said, I'm as excited as you are about more Bresson being available, though I wish New Yorker would just give their rights to Criterion... A Man Escaped and Lancelot of the Lake deserve better treatments.

samsong

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Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2004, 03:05:43 AM »
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Anyone else catch Trial of Joan of Arc on TCM?

Pubrick

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Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #20 on: June 11, 2005, 09:07:48 AM »
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does anyone know about this mk2 Region 2 box-set:

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews11/bresson-box-mk2.htm

it includes Pickpocket, Trial of Joarc, and L'Argent. i read sumwhere that Accent would be releasing australian versions of 5 or 6 bresson dvds in a boxset. i havn't found confirmation of this, so i'm keen to get this R2 french set in the meantime. i'm also aware of a New Yorker release of L'Argent which has commentary by Kent Jones, not available on the mk2 set.

if the set is a good thing i will also be getting Kent Jones' BFI Modern Classics book on L'Argent. for those who hav heard the New Yorker commentary, or know anything about it, will buying the book render the absent commentary negligible?

any help or another thread where this has been covered would be greatly appreciated. thanksabunch.
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modage

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Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #21 on: August 08, 2005, 04:52:07 PM »
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Writer/director Paul Schrader will introduce a screening of PICKPOCKET at 7:00 Friday, October 7 at the Film Forum in NYC.
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Ravi

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Re: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2005, 07:25:58 PM »
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A few months ago I watched Diary of a Country Priest and I just watched Au Hasard Balthazar.  I feel like I've discovered a cinema language I've never seen before, with these films.  They are stripped of artifice.  This "lack of style" does not make the films bland or boring.  Rather, this directness is purposeful.  These films don't telegraph and spoon-feed the underlying emotions or meanings to us and are somewhat open to interpetation.  They're not mystifying puzzles, but these films take a little more effort to watch than most.  I look forward to watching more Bresson (and Ozu, who is often mentioned in the same breath).

Pubrick

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Re: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #23 on: December 28, 2005, 07:34:50 PM »
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I look forward to watching more Bresson (and Ozu, who is often mentioned in the same breath).
bresson kicks ozu's ass.

definitely check out Pickpocket, it's probably his most accessible and then check out L'Argent, his least. but the best part about L'Argent is that it's so short u can watch it twice in a row and feel like u just saw a full length movie. the first time i tried watching it i fell asleep, then played it straight after and didn't blink once. his movies are best seen twice or more, his cinematic language just gets clearer.

bresson sits at the right hand of kubrick.
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soixante

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Re: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #24 on: December 29, 2005, 02:58:50 AM »
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Bresson's films have a detached feeling that reminds me of Kubrick.

Mouchette and Condemned Man Escaped are good for beginners.  I found Diary of a Country Priest rather difficult.
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JG

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Re: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #25 on: December 29, 2005, 08:29:00 PM »
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I look forward to watching more Bresson (and Ozu, who is often mentioned in the same breath).
bresson kicks ozu's ass.

definitely check out Pickpocket, it's probably his most accessible and then check out L'Argent, his least. but the best part about L'Argent is that it's so short u can watch it twice in a row and feel like u just saw a full length movie. the first time i tried watching it i fell asleep, then played it straight after and didn't blink once. his movies are best seen twice or more, his cinematic language just gets clearer.

bresson sits at the right hand of kubrick.

so you'd say pick pocket is a good intro to bresson?  what kind of DVD release is there?

hedwig

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Re: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #26 on: December 29, 2005, 08:48:00 PM »
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so you'd say pick pocket is a good intro to bresson?  what kind of DVD release is there?
it's Pickpocket, one word. and was recently released by Criterion:

with the following features:
* New, restored high-definition digital transfer
* Audio commentary by film scholar James Quandt
* New video introduction by writer-director Paul Schrader
* The Models of "Pickpocket," a 2003 documentary by filmmaker Babette Mangolte, featuring actors from the film
* A 1960 interview with Bresson, from the French television program Cinepanorama
* Q&A on Pickpocket, with actress Marika Green and filmmakers Paul Vecchiali and Jean-Pierre Ameris fielding questions at a 2000 screening of the film
* Footage of sleight-of-hand artist and Pickpocket consultant Kassagi, from a 1962 episode of the French television show La piste aux etoiles
* Original theatrical poster
* New and improved English subtitle translation
* A new essay by novelist and culture critic Gary Indiana

MacGuffin

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Re: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #27 on: October 11, 2007, 02:19:49 PM »
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The supreme genius of cinema
Pretentious? Difficult? Challenging? Robert Bresson's films may be all those things, says Gilbert Adair, but the real beauty is in their simplicity
Source: The Guardian

There is a shot in Robert Bresson's last film - L'Argent, released in 1983 - of a spoon clattering on a flagstone floor. For those who don't "get" it, it's simply a shot of a spoon, nothing more, nothing less. Yet, as with one of those magic-eye books on whose pages articulate forms suddenly materialise out of chaos, if you look at that spoon long enough and actually listen to, rather than just passively hear, the sound it makes as it falls onto the floor, it will reverberate afterwards in your ear, and your eye, and your mind's eye, like a tuning fork.

Such a shot is the key to Bresson's cinema. Although his are among the most beautiful films ever made, it would be hard to extract from any of them what is conventionally regarded as a beautiful shot, with the faint hint of the postcard inevitably conveyed by such a phrase. "Each shot," he himself wrote in his chilly collection of aphorisms, Notes on Cinematography, "is like a word, meaning nothing by itself ... it is lent meaning by its context." So it is that his films communicate their significance through a flurry of guillotine-sharp images so incisively edited together they seem to vibrate like sounds.

Perfection is where great film-makers eventually arrive. For Bresson it was a point of departure. From his first feature, Les Anges du Péché (1943), to his last, four decades later, he was internationally acknowledged as one of the supreme geniuses of cinema history. Yet, when he died in December 1999, just two years short of his own centenary, it can scarcely be claimed that this country's media collectively rose to the occasion. (Libération, by contrast, devoted its front cover to a full-page, captionless photograph of the director.)

True, he received respectful obituaries from all the usual suspects. But maybe because his death was ill-timed (what was he thinking of, dying a week before Christmas?) or, more likely, because no other great film director chanced to die on the same day, he was neither given what admirers of his work considered his proper due nor subjected to the posthumous indignity, as were Bergman and Antonioni earlier this year, of being superciliously dismissed by Jeremy Paxman as of interest solely to elitist snobs and poseurs.

Was Bresson pretentious? If pretension is a synonym for failed ambition, then the very question appears preposterous. No film-maker, living or dead, had fewer failures than he. If "pretentious" means no more than "difficult" or "challenging", then it can't be denied that Bresson's films do indeed fit the description.

As befits a practising Christian, his themes were mostly of a religious nature - essentially, the classic Catholic trinity of transgression, redemption and grace - as was often his subject matter. Les Anges du Péché is set wholly inside a Béthany convent; the hero of Le Journal d'un Curé de Campagne (Diary of a Country Priest, 1951) is a young curate, dying of cancer, obsessed with what he perceives as the failure of his life; the titles of Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (The Trial of Joan of Arc, 1962) and Le Diable Probablement (The Devil, Probably, 1977) speak for themselves. Yet, if his cinema is of an unprecedented thematic austerity and formal rigour, it's very far from being bloodlessly minimalist and sexless.

The first film cited depicts the convent in question as a claustrophobically erotic social group. The second has itself been contaminated, so to speak, by the grace with which its doomed protagonist is ultimately touched. The third might not unfairly be described as an exercise in sadomasochistic voyeurism, with Joan manacled, genitally scrutinised, forced to squat for hours on a low wooden stool as if on a toilet seat, and repeatedly spied upon through a keyhole; before the juxtaposition of her abasement and the serenely beautiful text (an edited transcript of the minutes of her trial) resolves itself in an unforgettable final image of her charred remains, smouldering like a burnt-out catherine wheel. As for the latter, François Truffaut, a director one would not ordinarily imagine warming to Bresson's haughty refusal ever to ingratiate himself with the general public, was so confounded by the physical beauty of its primarily adolescent performers that he went on record as finding it "voluptueux".

Or consider what is for many the finest of all his works, Pickpocket (1959), the story of a Parisian moocher for whom criminality becomes a vocation that he enters as one might a religious order. Its potentially rebarbative theme - sin as an ineluctable station on the path to salvation - is revitalised by the sheer pleasure the director takes in filming the pickpocket's art, in choreographing the swift evisceration of a wallet before it has been returned to its none-the-wiser owner. Its repeated shots of the hero's hand insinuating itself into the intimate orifices of his victim's pockets transform the legerdemain of petty theft into a jubilantly sensual, almost sexual practice.

Bresson knew how to dazzle. His second film, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945), scripted by Jean Cocteau, was a glittering melodrama of social and sexual intrigues among the leisured classes. He also knew how to grip. His one and only commercial success, Un Condamné à Mort s'Est Echappé (A Man Escaped, 1956), the true story of a French Resistance militant who escaped from a Gestapo prison in 1943, had audiences cheering at the end. He even knew how to charm. His delicate version of Dostoevsky's White Nights, Quatre Nuits d'un Rêveur (Four Nights of a Dreamer, 1971), a meditation on the frailties and fragilities of first love, is set throughout in a nocturnal neon-lit Paris divided by the Seine, under whose bridges glide bateaux-mouches as gaily illuminated as miniature ocean liners.

Where, then, you might well be asking, is the problem? This Bresson sounds nearly as approachable as Scorsese. The problem is what used to be called his vision of the world - in other words, his style. Before becoming a film-maker, Bresson was a painter and, as was true of many of the 20th century's greatest painters, he regarded creation as a process, primarily, of excision, ellipsis and elimination, of paring, cropping and cutting away. What is the point, he argued, of complacently revealing everything? What is the point of showing the whole when the part is capable of investing the same image with an even more profound mystery and rigour?

Hence the amazing number of shots in his films, inexplicably resonant shots at that, of parts of things - a wheel instead of an automobile, a doorknob instead of a door. Hence, as well, the importance of off-screen space, with several vital narrative events unfolding beyond the frame of the screen. (The most extreme instance of such an approach is undoubtedly the hold-up in L'Argent, which we don't see at all - it's thanks to the soundtrack alone that we know what's going on.) On paper it may all sound horribly frustrating, but on the screen the effect is electrifying.

A word, finally, about acting. After his first two features, Les Anges du Péché and Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, both of which were anchored in film-industry norms, Bresson never again employed a professional actor or actress. And it's effectively the performances in his films that are most frequently accused of alienating audiences. Yet, expressionless and even sometimes zombie-like as his performers may strike the casual eye, it's an easily verifiable fact that, as with the majority of directors, there are great Bresson performances, there are good ones and there are a few relatively poor ones.

One of the greatest of all - this isn't a joke - is that of Balthazar in Au Hasard Balthazar (1966). Balthazar is a donkey - a poor, maltreated beast whose gently impassive gaze reflects the horror, the cruelty but equally the bruised beauty of man's world. Bresson's detractors sneered that he'd at last discovered his ideal protagonist, and in a sense they weren't wrong. Such is the director's empathy with his donkey hero that its death scene, among a flock of sheep, to the not at all incongruous accompaniment of Monteverdi, is arguably the most moving in the entire history of the cinema.
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Ordet

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Re: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #28 on: December 09, 2009, 12:48:47 PM »
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The most subtle filmmaker of all time. I recently saw Au Hasard Balthazar in a retrospective and their truly is a very special rush you feel when you are watching the film. A very quiet rush.
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Pas

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Re: Robert Bresson: A Cinema of Grace, Purity and Transcendence
« Reply #29 on: December 09, 2009, 01:52:06 PM »
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Never saw this thread before, glad it exists.

Bresson is also a favorite of mine, the way he directs actors is quite astounding at first but once you get used to it, it seems to remove some kind of artifice and let you see past superficiality. I don't even know if that makes sense but in my head yes.

My favorite is Lancelot du Lac I think because it's so crazy and it's the first I seen.

As a frenchman I can also let you in on another fact... in case you hadn't noticed, the way people speak in his movies is totally not the way we speak. It's like all the actors are on a heavy dose of methadone or something. Quite strange.

 

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