Il n’y a pas un cœur pour les hommes et un autre cœur pour les animaux… On a du cœur ou on n’en a pas — Lamartine — There is not one heart for humans and another heart for animals… Either one has a heart or one does not.
The rare screening of a 35mm print by one of France’s most respected director
— the story of a donkey (yet not for children) —
Sunday March 19 at Webster University in St. Louis at 7 p.m.
Part of the ongoing Robert Classic French Film Festival (Cinema St. Louis)
— from my presentation —
Cinema is the art of showing nothing. — Robert Bresson
The viewer must abandon the idea of the image. — Robert Bresson
Bresson used to quote Paul Valéry’s who instead of saying « Je vais travailler » preferred to say « Je vais me faire des surprises » (“I am going to work” would be “I am going to make myself some surprises”)
- If only one honest man were needed to rescue the cinema from its own deadening course, Bresson alone, in all his saintliness, would suffice to get the job done. – André Bazin (1957)
- Balthazar’ is a difficult but transcendently rewarding experience, never to be missed. — Jean-Luc Godard
- The supreme masterpiece by one of the greatest of 20th-century filmmakers. — J. Hoberman
- I’d like viewers to come away from my films unsure whether they’ve understood them. – Jean-Pierre Melville
Susan Sontag, from her collection of essays, Against Interpretation
In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past.
In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling.
Transparence is the highest, most liberating value in art – and in criticism – today. Transparence means experiencing the luminousness of the thing in itself, of things being what they are. This is the greatness of, for example, the films of Bresson…
Real art has the capacity to make us nervous.
By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, comfortable.
Interpretation takes the sensory experience of the work of art for granted, and proceeds from there. This cannot be taken for granted, now. Think of the sheer multiplication of works of art available to every one of us, superadded to the conflicting tastes and odors and sights of the urban environment that bombard our senses. Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life – its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness – conjoin to dull our sensory faculties. And it is in the light of the condition of our senses, our capacities (rather than those of another age), that the task of the critic must be assessed.
What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more…
The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.
Watch Balthazar’s very first entrance into the circus: animals recognize themselves and acknowledge each other, they have their own language – a loud and, yet overall silent, non-anthropocentrist moment!
Related books (and film):
- Frans De Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Unlocking the Cage by Chris Hegedus & D.A. Pennebaker
THE CRITERION DVD
an introduction in
Senses of Cinema on Bresson
Brian Price’s Neither God nor Master: Robert Bresson and Radical Politics
Recently rediscovered Bresson’s 1934 “Les Affaires Publiques”
— en français & en español —
w. Dalio et Gilles Margaritis, musique de Jean Wiéner.