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The Minimalist World of Robert Bresson [TALKING IMAGES]

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St. Gloede
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The Minimalist World of Robert Bresson [TALKING IMAGES]

#1

Post by St. Gloede »

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How much can you strip away? How far can you go? Robert Bresson did not just create his own cinematic language, he created his own cinematic ideology - striving to tear film away from the theatre, strip away all artifice and create something you could only experience through cinema.

Over his 13 feature films, and one standalone short, his career spanned from 1934 to 1983. In this episode, we will talk you through each and every single one of his films, look at what they minimised, try to understand why and above all try to express just how it makes us feel - and why it works ... or doesn't.

This is the story of how Bresson became Bresson, and how his minimalist world developed, evolved, reached dead ends and rejuvenated itself. It is also a story about faith, determinism, ambiguity, and of course, hands, prison bars, doors and a very special donkey (which by the why was, just like his actors, not a professional donkey - heaven knows, maybe the audience could tell he was acting ...).

You Can Listen Here:

Sounder: https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... rt-bresson

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0vA9XiJM54pvxKhsuHCBzJ

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/t ... 1542580739 (may take a few hours to synch)

Timestamps:

00:00 - Intro
02:26 - Our first reaction to seeing a Bresson film
03:25 - Bresson, the canon and the French New Wave
07:21 - Things to Know Before Seeing Your First Bresson
10:59 - Short film: Affairs Publique
14:45 - Angels of Sin
18:10 - Les dames du Bois de Boulogne
22:40 - Diary of a Country Priest
29:05 - A Man Escaped
37:04 - Pickpocket
47:46 - The Trial of Jean of Arc
54:24 - Au hasard Baltazar
1:02:32 - Mouchette
1:10:46 - A Gentle Woman
1:21:17 - Four Nights of a Dreamer
1:28:00 - Lancelot du Lac
1:32:38 - The Devil Probably
1:35:55 - L'Argant
1:51:07 - Filmmakers Inspired by Bresson

Join the conversation

What is the first Bresson film you remember watching?

How did you react?

Is Bresson too extreme in his minimalism?

What do you think is Bresson's most stripped-down work?

How does watching a Bresson film make you feel?

What is your favourite Bresson? (feel free to rank)

Would Bresson have cast a door as his protagonist if he could? (or did he already?)

What directors do you believe are the most similar to Bresson (if at all possible)?

And of course: Discuss the films and dis/agree with anything stated in the episode
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#2

Post by St. Gloede »

Personal sidenote: Besides the Eric Rohmer 2-parter, this is possibly my favourite - and we have been sitting on it for almost a year. The files were slightly corrupted, and it took such a long time to tweak, fix and re-record - but here it finally is. I really hope you enjoy it and I apologise for the smaller flaws that are still present (should not hurt your listening pleasure)!
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#3

Post by blocho »

The first work I saw by Bresson was a double-bill of Pickpocket and A Man Escaped at Film Forum in New York, about 12 years ago. I wasn't expecting much more than a prison movie and a crime movie. In a literal sense, I got what I expected, both movies steered pretty far from genre conventions. I walked away nonplussed, and that feeling has stayed with me through two more Bresson movies. The only one I truly admired (I can't say enjoyed -- it feels weird to say one enjoys a Bresson movie) was L'argent. I saw it in a film class in grad school, and we had to post a reaction in a class forum, so I'll paste below what I wrote back then. If the references to Romero and Coppelius seem really random, it's because the two movies we had watched the previous weeks in class were Night of the Living Dead and The Tales of Hoffman.
I don’t know who it was, but somebody thought he could help those unfortunate, undead souls. The zombies of Romero have been revivified, cleansed of their hunger for human flesh, transported to Paris, and restored to humanity. And yet, they remain in many senses mindless automata.

“Calm down,” the prison guard says to Yvon. If either of them were any calmer, he would not have a pulse.

“I have the right to worry,” Elise says to Yvon. She does not seem worried.

“We fear death because we love life,” Yvon’s cellmate says. He does not seem fearful or loving. In fact, he seems more protective of his booze stash than he does of anyone’s life.

The most open expression of emotion in this movie comes from the dog. When he barks or licks at his dead master’s face, I understand the feelings of sadness and alarm. Even when Yvon learns his daughter has died, he hides his face in a pillow so as not to reveal true distress.

Bresson’s touch is delicate enough that such sequences rarely become grotesque. The world he depicts is off-kilter, but it is still our world and cannot be presented to us in the savage but honest manner that genuine human emotion would require. If everyone in L’Argent acted as we might think they should, we would have little besides some inert moralistic drama. If everyone acted like robots, we would only see a ridiculous burlesque.

Instead, Bresson turns everything a few degrees away from center, just enough for us to note the listing of the boat. Policemen respond soundlessly to a hostage situation, and one of them fires a revolver in a crouching stance that might be the least conducive to accuracy possible. Two teenagers pass off a forged banknote while feigning nonchalance as poorly as any criminal ever has. No one speaks any extraneous words. The camera lingers a moment too long on a closing purse or a slip of paper. The editing becomes so quick that it crunches the end and beginning of scenes together in a mishmash rhythm.

Make no mistake; these people are, if not robots, then at least behaviorally programmed. They are the opposite of Coppelius’ dolls. Those machines become lifelike through a special set of lenses, which represent the cinematic apparatus. The characters of L’Argent are humans, but the camera renders them mechanical.

L’Argent is overtly a critique of bourgeois culture. Trouble flows downhill, from Norbert’s icy, aristocratic family to the tawdry buffoonery of the photo shopkeepers to hapless Yvon. Everyone passes the buck, and the little guy get screwed in the end. If there is a hero here, it is Lucien, who at last glance has seemingly escaped prison to carry on his mythological Robin Hood campaign. After all, he has Yvon on his conscience. He has to answer for that now.
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#4

Post by prodigalgodson »

Ooh dope, this is my kind of topic! I've been slowly catching up with the podcast over the last few months, listened to almost all the episodes now. Loved that Adam Torel interview a few back, it was cracking me up to learn that onderhond's preferred aesthetic is evidently corporate committee select lol.

What is the first Bresson film you remember watching? Diary of a Country Priest was my first, as well as my first on film.

How did you react? Absolutely loved it, and still among my favorites from him. Others like Balthazar I had to do a little more living before I could fully appreciate.

Is Bresson too extreme in his minimalism? Never that, that's like asking if Ornette Coleman is too extreme in his atonality.

What do you think is Bresson's most stripped-down work? Probably L'argent.

How does watching a Bresson film make you feel? Usually melancholy and reflective I guess, occasionally bowled over (Lancelot, L'argent) or rapturous (A Man Escaped).

What is your favourite Bresson? (feel free to rank) Lancelot du Lac, but Diary of a Country Priest, Four Nights of the Dreamer, Au hasard Balthazar, L'argent, and The Devil Probably were all longstanding top 100 entries for me (Le diable didn't do as well on rewatch, but it's hard to measure up to the theater experience there).

Would Bresson have cast a door as his protagonist if he could? (or did he already?) No / I don't get it

What directors do you believe are the most similar to Bresson (if at all possible)? I think he has a number of spiritual companions, but formally I guess Dumont, Straub/Huillet, Kaul, Costa, Kiarostami...

Also wrote one of my favorite "books" Notes on the Cinematographer. Love Tarkovsky's description: "Perhaps the only artist in cinema who achieved the perfect fusion of the finished work with a concept theoretically formulated beforehand."

Can't wait to hear the podcast!
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#5

Post by Onderhond »

prodigalgodson wrote: September 17th, 2021, 6:39 am it was cracking me up to learn that onderhond's preferred aesthetic is evidently corporate committee select lol.
Don't you know it! The more people chip in and dilute an artistic vision, the more I love it :P

As for Bresson, don't have a whole lot to add. I've seen three of his films, none of which I really liked. The first one was Pickpocket, which started off very odd with some message "preparing" audiences for the film, which threw me off guard since I ended up expecting a more minimalist film than I was actually getting (certainly didn't expect some voice over chipping in every 5 minutes to make sure I knew what was happening).

I do see the minimalism in Bresson, but it feels a bit too intellectually labored for me. I can kinda see what he wants to accomplish, but I don't think it really translates well in his films (the same feeling I sometimes get from Von Trier's work). It's certainly not the kind of minimalism I favor (Ishikawa, Hou), which tends to be softer and more natural. Bresson on the other hand comes off very stark and rigorous.
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#6

Post by mightysparks »

Nothing interesting to add here, but...

What is the first Bresson film you remember watching?
A Man Escaped, in 2011

How did you react?
I liked it?

Is Bresson too extreme in his minimalism?
idk

What do you think is Bresson's most stripped-down work?
idk

How does watching a Bresson film make you feel?
like any other film

What is your favourite Bresson? (feel free to rank)
Love Pickpocket, followed by A Man Escaped. A couple others were ok, didn't like the rest (I've seen 11 in total)

Would Bresson have cast a door as his protagonist if he could? (or did he already?)
idk

What directors do you believe are the most similar to Bresson (if at all possible)?
idk, most directors don't really feel unique to me and Bresson isn't one that sticks out.
"I do not always know what I want, but I do know what I don't want." - Stanley Kubrick

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#7

Post by beavis »

St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm What is the first Bresson film you remember watching?
Lancelot du lac (rented it on VHS when I first started to try out arthouse cinema)
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm How did you react?
I did not know anything about Bresson actually and had chosen the movie more for the subject. I could not understand that he would feature an entire tournament but then chose to only film the hooves of the horses. There was a (precieved) pointlessness about it that frustrated me. This continues to trip me up with Bresson although I now of course see that he is deconstructing the entire genre and the concept of Noble knights with the movie
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm Is Bresson too extreme in his minimalism?
He uses minimalism, but it is something more/else, which is why I think it is correct to call his style "Bressonian"
Talking about minimalism I would name stuff made by Duras, Benning... Debord... Snow maybe... that kind of work, but there are overlapping circles for sure
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm What do you think is Bresson's most stripped-down work?
How does watching a Bresson film make you feel?
What is your favourite Bresson? (feel free to rank)
I recently rewatched Lancelot du lac, but I have been meaning to get back to him more seriously and I also have a book he wrote that I need to read still... so I can't really say anything meaningfull at the moment. I do know that he has made some explicitly Catholic movies which I probably will never really connect with as I cannot live with any doctrine that has "guilty from birth" as its core morality, however open minded I want to be. But I am interested in theology and do want to know more about what his views actually were and what goals he saw for religion in his movies... tbd
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm Would Bresson have cast a door as his protagonist if he could? (or did he already?)
This kind of tripping on "how extreme" someone is, doesn't do justice to Bresson and his intentions I feel. A bit juvenile.
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm What directors do you believe are the most similar to Bresson (if at all possible)?
Angela Schanelec and some of her German collegues come closest for me. Mani Kaul got a shoutout above, and I certainly agree with that too (and again also some other Indian filmmakers that can be grouped with that central figure)
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm And of course: Discuss the films and dis/agree with anything stated in the episode
I have yet to listen to it, but this is again a subject that sparks my interest greatly, so I will do that ASAP!
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#8

Post by OldAle1 »

Bresson is tough for me to discuss because he's one of those filmmakers who belongs to the past for me - I saw all of his work in a retrospective at the Film Center in Chicago; it may have been in the Spring 1999 series, or a few years earlier. I wish I'd kept records more seriously. In any case seeing all of his films (except for the short Affaires publiques which I don't think was available at the time) in a short span of time certainly was a mind-blowing experience, though with the caveat that I was of course seeing loads of other stuff including loads of other old masterpieces in the cinema also, which has the unfortunate effect often (maybe always) of diluting the power of even the most essential and unique work. I do remember in any case feeling both a sense of kinship to and alienation from all the work, it's stuff that I want to get close to but really can't in some respects, perhaps in part due to my lifelong atheism. Bresson's faith isn't something obvious or simple but it's always there and it's more challenging to deal with his conceptions of guilt, redemption, etc than with those of say Lang, Hitchcock, Scorsese or even Tarkovsky. And I think he's probably a filmmaker who would profit from another go-round now, when I've seen so much more. I saw all the films in the cinema in that one retro except Procès de Jeanne d'Arc which was the only one I didn't really love, but most of them have faded in memory now to the point where it'd be hard to discuss any of them productively.


What is the first Bresson film you remember watching?

I *think* it was Journal d'un curé de campagne, on a horrible VHS copy, in the late 1980s. Could have been a little later though, dunno.

How did you react?

After 30+ years, hard to say, but I think it was a pretty strong positive reaction; I was then and still am very interested in depictions of religious faith in film and something about it was very compelling.

Is Bresson too extreme in his minimalism?

No.

What do you think is Bresson's most stripped-down work?

Impossible to say, it's been too long since I've seen any of them at this point.

How does watching a Bresson film make you feel?

He is one of those filmmakers who puts me in such a unique emotional/mental state that I need to "cool off" afterwards; there's no watching another film right after a Bresson film unless (maybe) it's another Bresson film.

What is your favourite Bresson? (feel free to rank)

Again, impossible, since it's been so long since I've seen any of them. I'll just say Lancelot du lac for the moment, simply because it's the one I remember the best, and that I probably saw most recently - maybe around 2005 or so. I've seen a couple of others multiple times also but it's really impossible to rank or compare them at this point in time.

Would Bresson have cast a door as his protagonist if he could? (or did he already?)

No, because even if he expressed himself differently than other filmmakers, he was interested only in the living world or the world of the spirit. Doors don't have life or spirit.

What directors do you believe are the most similar to Bresson (if at all possible)?

Jeez I dunno. We've been talking Huillet-Straub, maybe them in terms of their rigor and their willingness to forgo anything that doesn't pertain directly to their filmic goals. But Bresson is really in his own world, with few direct analogs.

And of course: Discuss the films and dis/agree with anything stated in the episode

Haven't listened to it yet. Hopefully will before too long.
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#9

Post by beavis »

I'm now thinking it is also strange to use the word "extreme" in combination with minimalism, because as a line of thought in art minimalism is already pointing towards an extreme. Every true minimalism is extreme. If the question is if what Bresson is doing can still be called cinema, I think yes, and the other names I mentioned are much more looking at the boundaries of what film can be (the director only reading a script for a movie to take place in your mind, or a movie consisting of only black screens and white screens for instance).
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#10

Post by St. Gloede »

beavis wrote: September 17th, 2021, 2:01 pm I'm now thinking it is also strange to use the word "extreme" in combination with minimalism, because as a line of thought in art minimalism is already pointing towards an extreme. Every true minimalism is extreme.
I'm not sure if I quite agree, just using minimalism within interior design there is clearly a difference between:

Image

And:

Image

And:

Image

I think the same is true in film, where the minimalism of say Nomadland is not quite the same as the minimalism in First Cow, which is not quite the same as the minimalism of, say Jeanne Dielman, which is not quite the same as India Song - which is not the same as its, honestly, extreme sister film Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert - which uses the same audio track, but has removed all humans from its world. You can always go one step further, and I would not find the phrase "Extreme Minimalism" out of place when discussing Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert - and possibly even India Song.

If a think the descriptor fits Bresson, I would say no - at least not in general - though his most "extreme efforts" could easily qualify. I hardly think they are "too" extreme though as I find each Bresson great. You would have to go a little further, say into Othon territory, for it to just be a tiny bit too far for my personal liking.

One film we discussed in detail as his "most extreme" was The Trial of Jean of Arc, which continued to strip down what is needed to be shown and is so compact that cuts come just as the sentences are ending. There is no space for contemplation as he runs through the real transcripts from the trial. Using this style he barely managed to make a film above the 1-hour mark. Had he gone further down this path he would likely have been stuck making shorts - unless he adopted War and Peace, or the Bible. :D (The latter he was actually interested in, it comes up in the podcast). I don't think it is too extreme, as I think it is a wonderful work - albeit one of his weaker - but it does seem to be as compact as you can go before it stops working (perhaps someone can try something so compact you can only hear buzzwords, but I'm sceptical).
If the question is if what Bresson is doing can still be called cinema, I think yes, and the other names I mentioned are much more looking at the boundaries of what film can be (the director only reading a script for a movie to take place in your mind, or a movie consisting of only black screens and white screens for instance).
It is certainly cinema - if not it would be quite sad as Bresson's goal was to create an experience you could only get from cinema - though I completely agree that he plays with and reaches the boundaries of what a film can be.
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#11

Post by St. Gloede »

OldAle1 wrote: September 17th, 2021, 1:53 pm Bresson is tough for me to discuss because he's one of those filmmakers who belongs to the past for me - I saw all of his work in a retrospective at the Film Center in Chicago; it may have been in the Spring 1999 series, or a few years earlier.
I'm so jealous! And yes, I can strongly recommend rewatching his work. I rewatched all of his features in (near) chronological order last year, and it was an incredible experience. The best part is that I came to love all, whereas I before had only loved/liked about half - shooting Bresson up from being low on my top 100 directors (if on it at all, I don't recall) to being just outside my top 10. (l)

This also tied in with my rewatching Duras' India Song - and realizing that I have come to appreciate minimalism far more as I have gotten older - and that films I in the past thought were too cold, stilted or off-putting are now captivating me in ways I previously did not think possible.
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#12

Post by St. Gloede »

beavis wrote: September 17th, 2021, 8:52 am
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm What is the first Bresson film you remember watching?
Lancelot du lac (rented it on VHS when I first started to try out arthouse cinema)
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm How did you react?
I did not know anything about Bresson actually and had chosen the movie more for the subject. I could not understand that he would feature an entire tournament but then chose to only film the hooves of the horses. There was a (precieved) pointlessness about it that frustrated me. This continues to trip me up with Bresson although I now of course see that he is deconstructing the entire genre and the concept of Noble knights with the movie
:D

Yes, I can just imagine the experience of someone without preparation or warning walking into Lancelot du lac. Must be an extremely confusing exercise. I remember listening to another podcast on Bresson/Lancelot du lac where the critics were talking of how the opening scene reminded them too much of Monty Python & the Holy Grail - which was a little reassuring to me as that was the first thing I thought when I saw it the first time too. I can certainly say I found him too extreme/too stripped down (in many cases) in my youth. The way he worked with actors and the flat delivery/movement - as well as the visuals in themselves - frustrated me even more.

Today, however, I have a Lancelot du lac poster hanging in my home office. :wub:
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm Is Bresson too extreme in his minimalism?
He uses minimalism, but it is something more/else, which is why I think it is correct to call his style "Bressonian"
Talking about minimalism I would name stuff made by Duras, Benning... Debord... Snow maybe... that kind of work, but there are overlapping circles for sure
Yes!!! No argument there. Debord's Hurlements en faveur de Sade and Duras' Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert in particular, though I still enjoyed both, they did take things a little too far - especially the former by simply ending it with 20 or 30 minutes with a blank screen.

I am very happy no one has found him "too extreme yet".
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm What do you think is Bresson's most stripped-down work?
How does watching a Bresson film make you feel?
What is your favourite Bresson? (feel free to rank)
I recently rewatched Lancelot du lac, but I have been meaning to get back to him more seriously and I also have a book he wrote that I need to read still... so I can't really say anything meaningfull at the moment. I do know that he has made some explicitly Catholic movies which I probably will never really connect with as I cannot live with any doctrine that has "guilty from birth" as its core morality, however open minded I want to be. But I am interested in theology and do want to know more about what his views actually were and what goals he saw for religion in his movies... tbd
Yes, I can see that - luckily they never quite affected me the same way.

Best of luck if you decide to revisit more Bressons, hope you find what you are looking for - and maybe our interpretations and reflections can point you in the way of which may engage you the most. Have you seen all before, or do you have some/many left?
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm Would Bresson have cast a door as his protagonist if he could? (or did he already?)
This kind of tripping on "how extreme" someone is, doesn't do justice to Bresson and his intentions I feel. A bit juvenile.
Or perhaps it is a profound argument of a recurring motif - granted, put forth in a fairly juvenile way. (See A Gentle Woman discussion).
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm What directors do you believe are the most similar to Bresson (if at all possible)?
Angela Schanelec and some of her German collegues come closest for me. Mani Kaul got a shoutout above, and I certainly agree with that too (and again also some other Indian filmmakers that can be grouped with that central figure)
Interesting call on Schanelec! Same for Kaul, though I can't quite see that, expect perhaps in the case of Our Daily Bread - the rest of his films seem far more meditative - I suppose both can be interpreted as having strong spiritual elements however.
St. Gloede wrote: September 16th, 2021, 8:39 pm And of course: Discuss the films and dis/agree with anything stated in the episode
I have yet to listen to it, but this is again a subject that sparks my interest greatly, so I will do that ASAP!
:cheers:

Looking forward to hearing your feedback.
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#13

Post by beavis »

St. Gloede wrote: September 18th, 2021, 9:55 pm I think the same is true in film, where the minimalism of say Nomadland is not quite the same as the minimalism in First Cow, which is not quite the same as the minimalism of, say Jeanne Dielman, which is not quite the same as India Song
Ok, there are levels to it :) I only see minimalism with Nomadland if your baseline is a Hollywood action movie however, and those movies have a very hightend sense of what reality looks like. Nomadland to me is just naturalistic with some visual stylization added to it that also highten instead of substract... so maybe my view on what minimalism actually is, starts at a point that others would already label as 'extreme'...?
St. Gloede wrote: September 18th, 2021, 9:55 pm Best of luck if you decide to revisit more Bressons, hope you find what you are looking for - and maybe our interpretations and reflections can point you in the way of which may engage you the most. Have you seen all before, or do you have some/many left?
I have seen everything except an early short called Les affaires publiques. All of them I ranked on the lower side compared to similar films and filmmakers and their average canonnical status. Only Une femme Douce would ever feature on a lists of favorites for me... but like I said, only after a second chance for all of them would I be able to say something meaningful with a ranking here
St. Gloede wrote: September 18th, 2021, 9:55 pm Interesting call on Schanelec! Same for Kaul, though I can't quite see that, expect perhaps in the case of Our Daily Bread - the rest of his films seem far more meditative - I suppose both can be interpreted as having strong spiritual elements however.
The tight framing with often not faces or action as the focus is a feature for me (strongest in Duvidha maybe) and, talking about minimalism, the minimal storytelling in Nazar (like Une femme Douce also based on the Meek Woman by Dostojevsky) made it very Bressonian for me. Schanalec also uses both these features in her movies. I am not sure about possible religious/spiritual aspects with both these filmmakers though (if there are any, I don't think they are a main concern)... and need to rewatch and get a better grip on what Bressonian actually is :)
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#14

Post by beavis »

I listened to it this morning before heading to the cinema (just came back from Petite Maman and Dear Comrades). A nice overview. Not as deep as I would like to go, but there is something to say for going wide too. Good to hear most of your experiences with Bresson are similar to my own.

The fact that Haneke was name-dropped as being similar to Bresson sparked a train of thought while i was on my bike en route to the movies. I think it is right to mention him, and then also Demirkubuz comes to mind. It struck me how they are dealing with philosophy that all points back towards Dostojevsky. Bresson links with his Catholicism, Haneke with Ethics and Demirkubuz (maybe filtered through Camus who was another admirer of Dostojevsky) with Existentialism. This might be a stronger link than their filmstyle, although all three have a strong formalism to their style.

I wish you could have talked some more on the podcast about Ethics and the Catholic link between Bresson and Dostojevsky. I have seen all Bresson movies and a lot of Dostojevsky adaptations, but I think I have to read some more from Dostojevsky before I go back to rewatching Bresson's movies. Maybe also some Nietsche, when we are going into Ethics and also some of the French philosophy that focussed on de Sade... I've got two books by Pierre Klossowski in my collection. He appeared in Au hasard Balthazar and his writings also strongly inform the movie Salo... all this work is linked in this Sadistic Universe (a reference to Dutch author W.F. Hermans there ;))

The Catholicism rather than Christianity in genereal is interesting too with regards to authors as there seem to be quite some "converts" in that area. Next to Dostojevsky there is Joris-Karl Huysmans and another Dutch one, Gerard Reve (who was infamous in the Netherlands for his Donkey Trial...). I think another typical thing for this branch of the faith is doubt. I don't know yet if Bresson ever talked about his faith in interviews and if he was a late convert or a doubter or anything else. Would loved to have heard something about that in the podcast too... more work to be done! ;) something of substance to keep me busy (when I finally get to it) so something to look forward too... and while I am adding to my homework: I also still need to read Schrader's Transcendental Style in Film...!!!

So there it is, I think I know what I'm talking about, but I have read almost nothing form the people that matter here yet :)

---

Another name that popped into my head as being very similar to, or influenced by, Bresson is Marcel Hanoun. Une simple histoire (1958) especially, made right after Bresson's A Man Escaped must have been a direct influence at that time!!

I think I Eugene Green was mentioned in the podcast too. He has made Le Fils de Joseph, featuring a donkey, and the anti-acting way in which his actors deliver lines is certainly Bressonian. But he is much more concerned with the aesthetics of the fine (medieval) arts than with rigorous ethics or philosophy as far as I can tell. His movies also usually have a lot more humor in them :)
Last edited by beavis on September 19th, 2021, 5:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#15

Post by pitchorneirda »

beavis wrote: September 19th, 2021, 4:51 pm Another name that popped into my head as being very similar to, or influenced by, Bresson is Marcel Hanoun. Une simple histoire (1958) especially, made right after Bresson's A Man Escaped must have been a direct influence at that time!!
I can confirm that Hanoun was a great admirer of Bresson. And Jean-Luc Godard once said that A Man Escaped and A Simple Story were very similar because the first dealt with a man sentenced to death while the latter was about a woman sentenced to live.
Mekas also once said that Hanoun was the greatest French director since Bresson
"Art is like a fire, it is born from the very thing it burns" - Jean-Luc Godard
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#16

Post by prodigalgodson »

St. Gloede wrote: September 18th, 2021, 9:55 pm Same for Kaul, though I can't quite see that, expect perhaps in the case of Our Daily Bread - the rest of his films seem far more meditative - I suppose both can be interpreted as having strong spiritual elements however.
I've only seen four from Kaul, and while Our Daily Bread and Nazar are the most obviously similar, I think his use of actors, sparse compositions, sound design, use of inserts, and even editing patterns owe a lot to Bresson (which I believe was openly recognized by Kaul).
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#17

Post by St. Gloede »

Since recording this episode I did see my first Eugène Green, and by "accident". The film was Atarrabi & Mikelats - and even here, despite being hyper-stylized - I can see the similarities. I think what I called it was a hipper version of Straub-Huillet - but as they are probably amongst the closest, at least in actual style/expression rather than ideology - they are certainly in a very similar family.
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#18

Post by St. Gloede »

beavis wrote: September 19th, 2021, 4:51 pm I listened to it this morning before heading to the cinema (just came back from Petite Maman and Dear Comrades). A nice overview. Not as deep as I would like to go, but there is something to say for going wide too. Good to hear most of your experiences with Bresson are similar to my own.

The fact that Haneke was name-dropped as being similar to Bresson sparked a train of thought while i was on my bike en route to the movies. I think it is right to mention him, and then also Demirkubuz comes to mind. It struck me how they are dealing with philosophy that all points back towards Dostojevsky. Bresson links with his Catholicism, Haneke with Ethics and Demirkubuz (maybe filtered through Camus who was another admirer of Dostojevsky) with Existentialism. This might be a stronger link than their filmstyle, although all three have a strong formalism to their style.

I wish you could have talked some more on the podcast about Ethics and the Catholic link between Bresson and Dostojevsky. I have seen all Bresson movies and a lot of Dostojevsky adaptations, but I think I have to read some more from Dostojevsky before I go back to rewatching Bresson's movies. Maybe also some Nietsche, when we are going into Ethics and also some of the French philosophy that focussed on de Sade... I've got two books by Pierre Klossowski in my collection. He appeared in Au hasard Balthazar and his writings also strongly inform the movie Salo... all this work is linked in this Sadistic Universe (a reference to Dutch author W.F. Hermans there ;))

The Catholicism rather than Christianity in genereal is interesting too with regards to authors as there seem to be quite some "converts" in that area. Next to Dostojevsky there is Joris-Karl Huysmans and another Dutch one, Gerard Reve (who was infamous in the Netherlands for his Donkey Trial...). I think another typical thing for this branch of the faith is doubt. I don't know yet if Bresson ever talked about his faith in interviews and if he was a late convert or a doubter or anything else. Would loved to have heard something about that in the podcast too... more work to be done! ;) something of substance to keep me busy (when I finally get to it) so something to look forward too... and while I am adding to my homework: I also still need to read Schrader's Transcendental Style in Film...!!!

So there it is, I think I know what I'm talking about, but I have read almost nothing form the people that matter here yet :)
Unfortunately, I don't think we have the expertise to talk about this aspect of his work in greater detail - especially as Bresson was very reserved in discussing anything in terms of his personal views and beliefs in detail. What I do know, which was not brought up in the episode is that he was a Jansenist - which is a Catholic movement (sounds more like a denomination) I know much about beyond the focus on the ugliness in man's nature and determinism - which is very in line with his films.

(Looking it up before publishing they call it "predestination" not "determinism" and they also put a great focus on the need for divine grace - which I suppose you could make a lot of further interpretations on the basis of)

Most of my enjoyment of Bresson does not come from anything related to his religious views however, and at least for me, I don't think I would get more from the films.
---
Another name that popped into my head as being very similar to, or influenced by, Bresson is Marcel Hanoun. Une simple histoire (1958) especially, made right after Bresson's A Man Escaped must have been a direct influence at that time!!
I have somehow completely forgotten Une simple histoire, but in general I always saw him as most experimental - granted, it is his Four Seasons quadrilogy that is the only set of films I really remember.
I think I Eugene Green was mentioned in the podcast too. He has made Le Fils de Joseph, featuring a donkey, and the anti-acting way in which his actors deliver lines is certainly Bressonian. But he is much more concerned with the aesthetics of the fine (medieval) arts than with rigorous ethics or philosophy as far as I can tell. His movies also usually have a lot more humor in them :)
I really need to see more of his films. I thoroughly enjoyed most of Atarrabi & Mikelats, though the comedy elements were a little jarring. Would you recommend Le Fils de Joseph?
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#19

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I have seen 8 features from Green. Loved A Religiosa Portuguesa (2009) most (4.5/5). I rated Le Fils de Joseph with 4 stars, so still very good, I would recommend Le Pont des Arts (another 4) too.
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Post by St. Gloede »

beavis wrote: September 20th, 2021, 8:34 pm I have seen 8 features from Green. Loved A Religiosa Portuguesa (2009) most (4.5/5). I rated Le Fils de Joseph with 4 stars, so still very good, I would recommend Le Pont des Arts (another 4) too.
Cheers. Will make A Religiosa Portuguesa a priority.
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#21

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Really enjoyed the discussion of Bresson, here, especially in light of the fact that I have been planning a deep dive into his work for some time (I have only seen 3 of his up to now, with about 10 years in-between, none of which spoke to me in a big way at the time, but all of which stayed with me and continued to resonate long afterward.

I suppose there are several reasons I haven't dug into Bresson's work before, the first being that much of his work was never really that accessible, and the other part being that my own evolving philosophy of cinema went in a different direction (though some of my favorite filmmakers have been those wrestling with faith- Bergman, Kieslowski, Malick, Haneke, etc.) But, as I have usually gotten quite a lot out of visiting the films of avowed masters, he has continued to be one of the main classic filmmakers that I have wanted to explore, and to my surprise (along with this podcast) I have just discovered a streaming service that has almost every film he has made, so perhaps I will add my impressions to yours as I watch them.
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#22

Post by St. Gloede »

cinewest wrote: September 21st, 2021, 9:26 am Really enjoyed the discussion of Bresson, here, especially in light of the fact that I have been planning a deep dive into his work for some time (I have only seen 3 of his up to now, with about 10 years in-between, none of which spoke to me in a big way at the time, but all of which stayed with me and continued to resonate long afterward.

I suppose there are several reasons I haven't dug into Bresson's work before, the first being that much of his work was never really that accessible, and the other part being that my own evolving philosophy of cinema went in a different direction (though some of my favorite filmmakers have been those wrestling with faith- Bergman, Kieslowski, Malick, Haneke, etc.) But, as I have usually gotten quite a lot out of visiting the films of avowed masters, he has continued to be one of the main classic filmmakers that I have wanted to explore, and to my surprise (along with this podcast) I have just discovered a streaming service that has almost every film he has made, so perhaps I will add my impressions to yours as I watch them.
I'm really happy you enjoyed the episode, especially when you have only seen 3 of the films discussed. Did we manage to balance the discussion of what made the films interesting without giving too much away (with the exception of the two films we actively discussed the endings of)?

I really hope it encourages you to watch more - especially now that they are all available to you.

Feel free to come back here with your thought, we'd love to discuss the films in more detail - as there is much we didn't get to go into already - and more perspectives may add even more.
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#23

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beavis wrote: September 19th, 2021, 5:50 am
St. Gloede wrote: September 18th, 2021, 9:55 pm I think the same is true in film, where the minimalism of say Nomadland is not quite the same as the minimalism in First Cow, which is not quite the same as the minimalism of, say Jeanne Dielman, which is not quite the same as India Song
Ok, there are levels to it :) I only see minimalism with Nomadland if your baseline is a Hollywood action movie however, and those movies have a very hightend sense of what reality looks like. Nomadland to me is just naturalistic with some visual stylization added to it that also highten instead of substract... so maybe my view on what minimalism actually is, starts at a point that others would already label as 'extreme'...?
I should have replied to this one, and no, can't blame you for having stricter standards for when you call a film minimalist - but yes, that's clearly were the slight disagreement goes. :cheers:
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#24

Post by St. Gloede »

Image

I believe I have seen this quote before, but it was not on our mind during the episode, and I am therefore really happy that a large part of what we were talking about was just how each film made us feel and react.
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