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Bresson on Bresson: Interviews, 1943-1983

Bresson on Bresson: Interviews, 1943-1983


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Robert Bresson, the director of such cinematic master-pieces as Pickpocket, A Man Escaped Mouchette, and L’Argent, was one of the most influential directors in the history of French film, as well as one of the most stubbornly individual: He insisted on the use of nonprofessional actors; he shunned the “advances” of Cinerama and Cinema-Scope (and the work of most of his predecessors and peers); and he minced no words about the damaging influence of capitalism and the studio system on the still-developing—in his view—art of film. Bresson on Bresson collects the most significant interviews that Bresson gave (carefully editing them before they were released) over the course of his forty-year career to reveal both the internal consistency and the consistently exploratory character of his body of work. Successive chapters are dedicated to each of his fourteen films, as well as to the question of literary adaptation, the nature of the sound track, and to Bresson’s one book, the great aphoristic treatise Notes on the Cinematograph. Throughout, his close and careful consideration of his own films and of the art of film is punctuated by such telling mantras  as “Sound...invented silence in cinema,” “It’s the film life to the characters—not the characters that give life to the film,” and (echoing the Bible) “Every idle word shall be counted.” Bresson’s integrity and originality earned him the admiration of younger directors from Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette to Olivier Assayas. And though Bresson’s movies are marked everywhere by an air of intense deliberation, these interviews show that they were no less inspired by a near-religious belief in the value of intuition, not only that of the creator but that of the audience, which he claims to deeply respect: “It’s always ready to feel before it understands. And that’s how it should be.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681370446
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 11/15/2016
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Robert Bresson (1901–1999) was born in Bromont-Lamothe, France. He attended the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, and moved to Paris after graduation, hoping to become a painter. He directed a short comedy, Affaires publiques, in 1934, but his work was curtailed by the outbreak of World War II. He enlisted in the French army in 1939 and was captured in 1940, spending a year in a labor camp as a prisoner of war. After his release he returned to Paris and directed Angels of Sin (1943), his first full-length film, under the German occupation. Les dames du Bois de Boulogne  followed in 1945, and in 1951 Diary of a Country Priest was met with widespread acclaim. His next film, A Man Escaped  (1956), which follows the memoirs of André Devigny, a French Resistance leader incarcerated during World War II, became a hit. He made eleven more films over the next three decades, including Mouchette, Au hasard Balthazar, Pickpocket, Lancelot of the Lake, and L’Argent. Throughout his career Bresson eschewed the use of theatrical techniques and employed nonprofessional actors whom he referred to as models. Raised in the Catholic faith, he worked on and off throughout his career on an adaptation of the book of Genesis, which never saw fruition. He died in Droue-sur-Drouette at the age of ninety-eight.

New York Review Books also publishes Bresson’s celebrated Notes on the
Anna Moschovakis is a translator and editor, and the author of several books of poetry, including Three Others Are Approaching a Lake (2011). She lives in Brooklyn and Delaware County, New York.

Mylène Bresson is Robert Bresson's widow and the manager of his estate. 

Pascal Mérigeau is a journalist and film critic who has published numerous books, among them biographies of Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Maurice Pialat, and a forthcoming biography of Jean Renoir. Mérigeau lives in France.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part 1 Public Affairs, 1934

Prelude 3

Part 2 Angels of Sin, 1943

It Takes an Auteur 9

Jean Giraudoux 13

Part 3 Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, 1945

Scandals and Shocks 19

Inferiority Leads the Way 23

Jean Cocteau 25

The Festival du Film Maudit 27

Part 4 Diary of a Country Priest, 1951

Between These Two Worlds 31

It's the Impossibility That Attracts Me 33

To See and To Hear 37

As I Would Write a Poem 41

Part 5 A Man Escaped, 1956

The Wind Blows Where It Wants To 47

A New Means of Expression 55

Part 6 Pickpocket, 1959

A Film Made of Hands, Objects, and Glances 59

A Film's Rhythm Should Be Like the Beating of a Heart 63

To Capture Only What Is Real 69

To Get to the Mystery 73

Poetry and Truth Are Sisters 81

Part 7 The Trial of Joan of Arc, 1962

This Familiarity with the Palpably Supernatural 87

I Know of Nothing More Atrocious or More Poignant 93

It's What the Film Wanted 95

Emotion Should Be Our Only Guide 101

Joan of Arc Was Beautiful, Elegant, Approachable, Modern 107

To Make Her Real, To Bring Her Close 115

If You Want the Current to Flow, You Have to Strip the Wires 119

Part 8 Adaptation

Aspects of Dramatic Creation 125

Part 9 Au Hasard Balthazar, 1966

A Donkey in All Its Purity, Its Tranquility, Its Serenity, Its Sanctity 133

The Freest Film I've Made, the One to Which I've Given the Most of Myself 139

To Create Life Without Copying It 159

The Beaten Path 173

Part 10 Mouchette, 1967

More in the Manner of Portraitists 185

Something Else I Like in Bernanos: His Supernatural Is Constructed from the Real 189

Looks That Kill 193

Part 11 The Sound Track

The Ear Is Far More Creative Than the Eye 199

Part 12 A Gentle Woman, 1969

The Confrontation Between Death and Life 205

I Am Here, tire Other Is Elsewhere, and the Silence Is Terrible 209

Part 13 Four Nights of a Dreamer, 1972

Art Is Not a Luxury, But a Vital Need 217

Between Blue and Brown 221

I Look for Surprises 227

Part 14 Lancelot of the Lake, 1974

To Bring the Past into the Present 233

It Was Lancelot's Very Particular Inner Adventure That I Found Striking 237

Torn Between Fidelity and Felony 239

The Sound of Iron 243

The Grail 247

Part 15 Notes on the Cinematograph, 1975

You Strip Your Art Naked 253

Part 16 The Devil, Probably, 1977

The Adversary 263

The Gaps Are Where the Poetry Slips In 267

Part 17 L'Argent, 1983

O Money, Visible God! 273

The Cinema Is Immense, We Haven't Done a Thing 279

Image Credits 285

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