Programme

Robert Bresson, The Sublime Minimalist

A filmmaker’s filmmaker. Despite his links with the New Wave and postwar transformations of French cinema, […] Read more

A filmmaker’s filmmaker. Despite his links with the New Wave and postwar transformations of French cinema, Robert Bresson (1901-1999) was less experimental than visionary. He was a complete auteur whose beautifully crafted works constitute a scant thirteen films, combining deep aesthetic sensibilities with profound moral questions. Both creator and philosopher – a Catholic athiest as he called himself – he has become patron saint to filmmakers as important as Ingmar Bergman, François Truffaut, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Michael Haneke.

Bresson was born in at Bromont-Lamothe, Puy-de- Dôme, in central France. Although intensely private about his life, he was clearly shaped by a deep Catholicism whose themes – including the basic struggle for salvation and redemption – permeate many of his works even if reframed in terms that become questions rather than answers for his characters and audiences. His experiences in World War II – including his time as a prisoner of war – also proved formative, especially in his masterpiece A Man Escaped (1956).

Yet if his themes probe the essential questions facing men and women within modern French society, his vision and demands as a director also made his cinema powerful and poetic. Bresson began his career as a painter, and continued to blend an aesthetic eye with a rejection of the artifice associated with theatrical performance. Indeed, Bresson gave up on actors and used non-professionals whom he could treat as models in the quest of the unity and transcendence of film. In his hands, they incarnated simple country girls, religious figures torn by doubt, saints and sinners, and even knights stripped of myth but imbued with new power. Meanwhile, Bresson found inspiration in Bernanos, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy while translating their works into new forms and stories.

Martin Scorsese famously said that “We are still coming to terms with Robert Bresson and the peculiar power and beauty of his films.” This retrospective allows the Hong Kong audience to experience his masterworks, nearly two decades after his death, and join (or rejoin) generations of students and fans in this quest.

Further reading:
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, The Films in My Life, from Truffaut, François. The Films in My Life. Translated by Leonard Mayhew. London: Allen Lane, 1980
Un Condamne a mort S’est Echappe, The Films in My Life, from Truffaut, François. The Films in My Life. Translated by Leonard Mayhew. London: Allen Lane, 1980
Filmmakers on Bresson – Martin Scorsese, Robert Bresson by James Quandt (Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario, 1998)
Filmmakers on Bresson – Olivier Assayas, Robert Bresson by James Quandt (Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario, 1998)
Filmmakers on Bresson – Aki Kaurismaki, Robert Bresson by James Quandt (Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario, 1998)
Filmmakers on Bresson – Andrei Tarkovsky, Robert Bresson by James Quandt (Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario, 1998)
Filmmakers on Bresson – Hal Hartley, Robert Bresson by James Quandt (Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario, 1998)
Spiritual Style in the Films of Robert Bresson by Susan Sontag, From Robert Bresson by James Quandt (Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario, 1998)

Read less