One of the most thorough interviews with Robert Bresson by Charles Thomas Samuels
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ALSO
“Ni Vu, Ni Connu” a one-hour filmed interview
– included on the brilliant Blu-Ray Criterion DVD of A Man Escaped –
A Man Escaped
Un Condamné à Mort s’est Échappé
Cannes Best Director 1957
Sunday, March 29 at 7:30pm
Winifred Moore Auditorium
470 E. Lockwood Ave., St. Louis, MO 63119
With an introduction and post-film discussion by Pier Marton, artist/professor and the Unlearning Specialist at the School of No Media
PART OF THE ROBERT CLASSIC FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL
P R A I S E F O R B R E S S O N
Bresson is isolated in his terrible profession. As a poet does with his pen, he expresses himself cinematographically. Deep is the abyss between his nobility, silence, gravity, dreams, and the rest of the world.
What has been accomplished in poetry, in literature, Bresson has done with the cinema. One might say that, before Bresson, cinema was parasitic, derived from other arts. With him came a pure cinema…
Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music.
Jacques Rivette (in 1957)
There is only one (French) filmmaker left who has not sold out, and that’s Bresson.
The most important French film in the past ten years (about A Man Escaped).
They are a lot of filmmakers I admire: Bergman, Fassbinder, Cassavetes, Visconti, Mizoguchi, Rohmer, Scorsese, Dreyer, Rossellini, Pasolini, Tarkovsky.
Just to mention the few that most naturally come to mind.
But Bresson is, for me, in a category of his own. He is what keeps me faithful to what cinema can achieve. In moments of discouragement, he reminds me how great films can be.
The name Bresson has become a pure word, an entity , a kind of film manifesto for poetic rigor. Bressoniam meant for me and my friends the ultimate, moral, unreachable, sublime, punishing cinematic tension. Punishing because his movies are strong sensual experiences with no relief (apart from the aesthetic relief, itself a devastating pleasure).
The film never appears to be a spectacle, but rather nature, life itself. If one wants to watch, one watches, if one doesn’t, one doesn’t. Such a strong independence from public and critical opinion remains for me the exemplary attitude of a director towards his audience.
(His) vision of the world is expressed in an ascetic way, almost laconic, lapidary I would say. Very few artists succeed in this. Every serious artist strives for simplicity, but only a few manage to achieve it. Bresson is one of the few who has succeeded.
That someone can achieve such perfection in a film! For me, Bresson is one of the giants of the last 50 years of cinema. Maybe the giant.
The reason that Bresson is not generally ranked according to his merits is that the tradition to which his art belongs, the reflective or contemplative, is not well understood. Particularly in England and America. Bresson’s films are often described as cold, remote, overintellectualized, geometrical. But to call a work of art ”cold” means nothing more or less than to compare it (often unconsciously) to work that is ”hot.” And not all art is – or could be – hot, anymore than all persons have the same temperament. The generally accepted notions of the range of temperament in art are provincial.
Why Bresson is not only a much greater, but also more interesting director then, say, Buñuel is that he has worked out a form that perfectly expresses and accompanies what he wants to say. In fact, it is what he wants to say
The form of Bresson’s films Is designed to discipline the emotions at the same time that it arouses them: to induce a certain tranquility in the spectator, a state of spiritual balance that is itself the subject of the film.
Reflective art is art which, in effect, imposes a certain discipline on the audience– postponing easy gratification. Even boredom can be a permissible means of such discipline..
Bresson is among the most meticulous, moral, and profound of filmmakers.
Paul Schrader, the director of Mishima, American Gigolo, Hard Core, Blue Collar, Cat People and the screenwriter behind Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, loves Bresson’s work and wrote a book, Transcendental Style about Bresson, Ozu and Dreyer:
With Bresson “films could be spiritual and profane.”
We are still coming to terms with Robert Bresson and the peculiar power and beauty of his films.
+ I saw A Man Escaped again recently – it functions like a delicate and perfectly calibrated hand-made machine… Once I settle in his particular orbit, the experience is always rewarding, because he focuses on things that are beyond the reach of most movies… He’s also an incredibly dynamic filmmaker, and I learn a lot that each time and watch one of his pictures.
who was your teacher
Cannes Press Conference (in French)