Bresson and Others: Spiritual Style in the Cinema

Bresson and Others: Spiritual Style in the Cinema

Bert Cardullo

Language: English

Pages: 255

ISBN: 1443809926

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A number of writers have attempted to capture Robert Bresson's style as well as his substance with such terms as 'minimalist', 'austere', 'ascetic', 'elliptical', 'autonomous', 'pure', even 'gentle'. Most famously, Paul Schrader once called Bresson's films 'transcendental', while Susan Sontag described them as 'spiritual'. Both these critics thus extended in anglicized form a tendency that had early been dominant in Bresson criticism in France: the attempt, made by such Catholic writers as Andre Bazin, Henri Agel, Roger Leenhardt, and Amedee Ayfre, to understand Bresson's work in religious terms, seeing his camera as a kind of god and the material world as (paradoxically) a thing of the spirit. That attempt, in Sontag's essay, led to the introduction of Bresson to the New York-based avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s, whose films - such as Richard Serra's 'Hand Catching Lead' (1968), for one - show the influence of the French director's severe, reductivist style. Jean-Luc Godard, of course, needed no such critical introduction to Robert Bresson, for, in his iconoclasm and integrity, in his rejection of the Gallic 'Cinema du Papa' as well as in his embrace of film as an independent art, Bresson was one of the heroes of the young directors who constituted the French New Wave in the early 1960s. So much so that Godard was moved to say in Cahiers du cinema in 1957 that 'Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoyevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music'. The result is that Bresson has undeniably influenced a slew of contemporary European filmmakers, including Chantal Akerman, Olivier Assayas, Laurent Cantet, Alain Cavalier, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Claire Denis, Jacques Doillon, Bruno Dumont, Michael Haneke, Benoit Jacquot, and Maurice Pialat - not to speak of his influence on Asian and American cinema. 'Bresson and Others: Spiritual Syle in the Cinema'; is an attempt to document this influence through essays on fifteen international directors who followed in Bresson's wake, who in fact may have influenced him (Carl Dreyer), or who contemporaneously worked veins similar to those found in Bresson's films ('Ingmar Bergman', 'Yasujiro Ozu'). These essays are preceded by an introduction to the cinema of Robert Bresson and followed by film credits, a bibliography of criticism, and an index. The subject of Bresson and Others, then, may specifically be Bressonian cinema, but, in a general sense, it could also be said to be spirit and matter - or film and faith.

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if it were to be reduced to a summary of its action? Because Rossellini is a genuine director, the essence of his film does not consist in the elaboration of its plot: that essence is supplied by the very transparency of its style. The auteur of Germany, Year Zero (in which a boy also kills himself) seems profoundly haunted in a personal way by the death of children, even more by the horror of their suicide. And it is around his heroine’s authentic spiritual experience of such a suicide that

and beast. Giulietta Masina, for her part, is infinitely enchanting in the first starring role given to her by Fellini (her husband). A mime in the tradition of Barrault, Marceau, and Chaplin, she uses her miming skills here far more than language—which, after all, in so visual a medium as film can sometimes mediate between us and our affective response to character—to create the childlike character of Gelsomina. A loving, trusting, hopeful, endearing, and enduring person, she has her spirit

states that exist outside them—indeed, are considered to be of the same order of reality as life apart from the screen. (So much so that, in the case of the terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center in September of 2001, something like the equivalent-in-reverse occurred: videotaped images on television of the Twin Towers actually collapsing were initially thought by many viewers to be preview shots from the latest Hollywood disaster movie.) One questionable formula arising from this

ironically, a condition comparable to that druginduced state from the late sixties which itself used to elicit (from the young) the exclamatory expression, “Unreal!” CONCLUSION DOSTOYEVSKYAN SURGES, BRESSONIAN SPIRITS: ON KERRIGAN’S KEANE AND BRESSON’S UNE FEMME DOUCE Lodge Kerrigan is a young writer-director who has drawn comparisons with the Dardenne brothers of Belgium for his shooting style and his treatment of characters on the margins of society. But his latest film, Keane (2004),

Jean-Baptiste Lully Editor: Raymond Lamy Running time: 75 minutes Cast: Martin Lasalle (Michel); Marika Green (Jeanne); Jean Péligri (the inspector); Dolly Scal (Michel’s mother); Pierre Leymarie (Jacques); Kassagi (the first accomplice); Pierre Étaix (the second accomplice) The Trial of Joan of Arc (Procès de Jeanne d’Arc), 1962 Producer: Agnès Delahaye Screenplay: Robert Bresson (based on transcripts of the trial) Cinematography: (black-and-white) Léonce-Henri Burel Art director: Pierre

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