Robert Bresson  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Robert Bresson (September 25, 1901December 18, 1999) was a French film director known for his spiritual, ascetic style.

Contents

Biography

Initially a painter and photographer, Bresson made his first short film, Les affaires publiques (Public Affairs) in 1934. During World War II, he spent over a year in a prisoner-of-war camp--an experience which informs Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut (A Man Escaped).

In a career that spanned fifty years, Bresson made only 13 feature-length films. This reflects his meticulous approach to the filmmaking process and his non-commercial preoccupations. Difficulty finding funding for his projects was also a factor.

Style and themes

Bresson's early artistic focus was to separate the language of cinema from the theatre, which often heavily involves the actor's performance to drive the work. With his 'actor-model' technique, Bresson's actors were required to repeat multiple takes of each scene until all semblances of 'performance' were stripped away, leaving a stark effect that registers as both subtle and raw, and one that can only be found in the cinema.

Some feel that Bresson's Catholic upbringing and Jansenist belief-system lie behind the thematic structure of most of his films. Recurring themes under this interpretation include salvation, redemption, defining and revealing the human soul, and metaphysical transcendence of a limiting and materialistic world. An example is his 1956 feature A Man Escaped, where a seemingly simple plot of a prisoner of war's escape can be read as a metaphor for the mysterious process of salvation.

Bresson's films can also be understood as critiques of French society and the wider world, with each revealing the director's sympathetic if unsentimental view on its victims. That the main characters of Bresson's most contemporary films, L'Argent and The Devil, Probably (1977), reach similarly unsettling conclusions about life indicates to some the director's feelings towards the culpability of modern society in the dissolution of individuals. Indeed, of an earlier protagonist he said, "Mouchette offers evidence of misery and cruelty. She is found everywhere: wars, concentration camps, tortures, assassinations."

In 1975, Bresson published Notes sur le Cinématographe (most commonly translated as "notes on cinematography"), in which he argues for a unique sense of the term, "cinematography". For Bresson, cinematography is the higher function of cinema. Whereas a movie is in essence "only" filmed theatre, cinematography is an attempt to create a new language of moving images and sounds.

Legacy

Bresson is often referred to as a 'patron saint' of cinema, not only for the strong Catholic themes found throughout his oeuvre, but also for his notable contributions to the art of film. His original directorial language can be detected through his use of sound, associating selected sounds with images or characters; paring dramatic form to its essentials by the spare use of music; and through his infamous 'actor-model' methods of directing his almost exclusively non-professional actors.

He has influenced a number of other filmmakers, including Andrei Tarkovsky, Michael Haneke, Jim Jarmusch and Paul Schrader, whose book Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (ISBN 0-306-80335-6) includes a detailed critical analysis.

Quotes

"Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is the German music" — Jean-Luc Godard, French film director (Robert Bresson (Cinematheque Ontario Monographs, No. 2), edited by James Quandt).

Awards and nominations

Robert Bresson was given the Career Golden Lion in 1989 by the Venice Film Festival

Filmography

Feature films

Short films

  • Les affaires publiques (1934)
    • Public Affairs

Bibliography

By Robert Bresson

  • Notes sur le Cinématographe — translated as notes on cinematography and notes on the cinematographer in different English editions.

About Robert Bresson

  • La politique des auteurs, edited by Andre Bazin.
  • Robert Bresson (Cinematheque Ontario Monographs, No. 2), edited by James Quandt
  • Transcendental Style in Film: Bresson, Ozu, Dreyer by Paul Schrader
  • Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film, by Joseph Cunneen
  • Robert Bresson, by Philippe Arnauld, Cahiers du cinema, 1986
  • The Films of Robert Bresson, Ian Cameron (ed.), New York: Praeger Publishers, 1969.
  • Robert Bresson, by Keith Reader, Manchester University Press, 2000.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Robert Bresson" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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