Robert Bresson – Au hasard Balthazar AKA Balthazar (1966)

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Balthazar is a farm animal – a donkey – born into a life of servitude: a beast of burden destined to work the land, carry bales of hay, provide occasional transportation. His harsh, often exploited existence is paralleled through the life of Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), a reticent young woman whose father (Philippe Asselin) has been asked to maintain a friend’s farm after tragedy compels the owners to leave. Years later, the owner’s son, Jacques (Walter Green), returns to the farm to profess his support for Marie’s father, whose reputation has been ruined by persistent debt and rumors surrounding the unresolved ownership and usage of the farm. Jacques is devoted to Marie, but his declaration of love is received with complacent resignation. Continue reading

Robert Bresson – Pickpocket (1959)

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Michel is an inscrutable young man – neatly dressed, mild mannered, intelligent – hardly the type whom one would suspect to be a pickpocket. And perhaps, that is reason that he does it. Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket is a well crafted, austere, and taut film of a man driven by his self-destructive compulsion. We first encounter Michel (Martin LaSalle) at a Paris racetrack, stealthily fingering through the clasp of a woman’s handbag, reaching in, pocketing her money. A wild, almost euphoric gaze comes over his impassive face, heightened by the cheering crowd as the horses approach the finish line. Soon, his compulsion consumes him. His friend, Jacques (Pierre Leymarie) furnishes him with contacts for employment opportunities, but he does not follow through. Continue reading

Robert Bresson – L’Argent (1983)

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Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader wrote:
Robert Bresson’s 1983 film returns to some of the themes of his earlier work–the notion of stolen grace from Pickpocket, the suppression of scenes in favor of a continuous flow of action from A Man Escaped–but there is also a new passion and electricity in Bresson’s minimalist images; it nowhere feels like the work of an 80-year-old man. Among the violent events are a bank robbery, a car chase, a prison insurrection, and a series of brutal murders; the world is ready to explode into chaos, but Bresson retains his contemplative distance, searching for the sense in which this “avalanche of evil” can lead to the ultimate spiritual victory of his protagonist. Bresson, working his sound track as assiduously as his visuals, once again makes us realize how little use most films make of the resources of the cinema. A masterpiece. 90 min. Continue reading

Robert Bresson – Le Diable probablement AKA The Devil Probably (1977)

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The story unfolds of a young man living in Paris. He wants more from life than the glib, superficial truths and material things that are on offer to him. He reaches out to his family and friends and psychiatrist to provide him with the great answers in life. But his spiritual deliverance remains beyond his grasp until he reaches a bizarre arrangement with a fellow hippie.

Robert Bresson is one of France’s most distinguished and influential film makers. His works include ‘Lancelot Du Lac’ and ‘L’Argent’ and he has won major prizes and unrestrained critical acclaim. Many distinguished critics regard THE DEVIL PROBABLY as a masterpiece, and one of Bresson’s greatest films. Artificial Eye Continue reading

Robert Bresson – Une femme douce (1969)

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Bresson’s brilliant adaptation of Dostoevsky’s short story (A Gentle Creature) exhibits in its lapidary sequences the political and existential revolt of a young student in Paris. Sharing a theme that can be traced from Bresson’s Mouchette to his fantastic exploration of revolutionary choices in The Devil Probably, Une Femme Douce articulates in its inimitable minimalist mode a range of issues from the ideological options of France post-May ’68 to human relationships. Dominique Sanda is not the conventional, recognizable student revolutionary, but a “gentle” philosopher whose powers of sensitivity and social scrutiny exceed and tease the prosaic, crude disposition of her bourgeois husband. The sequences in the zoo, the museum of natural history and the performance of Hamlet are powerful. On another note, look out for Indian experimental filmmaker Kumar Shahani who was assisting Bresson at this time, sitting diagonally behind Sanda in the sequence at the movie theater.
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Robert Bresson – Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut AKA A Man Escaped (1956)

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Avoiding all the clichés of the prison movie genre, Robert Bresson achieves the impossible in A MAN ESCAPED: he presents a highly minimalist depiction of a prisoner plotting a jailbreak, and is still able to evoke incredible suspense despite the fact that the movie frequently consists of little more than a man toiling away quietly in his cell. Neither Bresson’s seemingly odd choice of a past-tense title, nor the fact that the film is based on a real WWII event in which a prisoner successfully escaped a German-run jail in occupied France, lessens the film’s impact. As in many of Bresson’s films, the protagonist is a possessed individual whose mission sustains him. While he may stubbornly continue planning, the viewer sees the potential hazards he may encounter and feels an incredible sense of tension each time his efforts are stalled. Bresson inserts a spiritual element into the prisoner’s behavior by emphasizing the ritualistic nature of his daily activities, and by showing how group activity and trust are required to resist the evil, personified by the Nazi captors. Gripping and sublime, A MAN ESCAPED is a cinematic masterpiece. Continue reading