The News Column
This section is updated as warranted.
Responsible Newsdesk Editor: Trond S. Trondsen.
Please submit news updates to email@example.com
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To link to a specific News Item on robert-bresson.com, link as follows:
February 10, 2023
The full programme for the upcoming NOTES ON BRESSON event at The University of Manchester (see previous news updates) is now official, and can be accessed here.
January 31, 2023
Further to our previous news update, here is the gorgeous Poster for the upcoming NOTES ON BRESSON event at The University of Manchester. Tickets are still available and may be purchased here. The full Programme is turning out to be rather impressive, and will be made official shortly. In the meantime, here is the official Press Release.
We hope to see many of you in Manchester on March 30 and 31! The conference promises to be an invaluable event for anyone seeking to understand Robert Bresson's minimalistic perfectionism and the beauty of his singular body of work.
November 25, 2022
Following the recent publication of the Call for Proposals (yes, there's still time), the University of Manchester has now released details on ticketing for the NOTES ON BRESSON conference to be held next March. Please see the official U of M Event Information and the Conference Website.
November 18, 2022
The University of Manchester, in conjunction with partners Richmond, the American International University in London and the UK Bressonian Practice-Based Research Group, is pleased to announce the conference, NOTES ON BRESSON, which will take place in Manchester on 30th and 31st March 2023. News on ticketing will follow shortly but for now, here's the Call for Proposals. The conference chairs hope to see as many fellow Bressonians as possible in Manchester next spring!
October 19, 2022
A conference around Robert Bresson, exploring his life, work and influence is in the works for next year. The Notes on Bresson Conference will take place at the University of Manchester, U.K., along with other venues in Manchester, on March 30-31, 2023. The Conference co-Chairs will be inviting the presentation of work by — and active participation of — academics and researchers from across the globe and by creative practitioners from across media. Stand by for contact details and additional information. The Conference co-Chairs are Richard Bevan (RAIUL), Tamsin Clark and Jonathan Hourigan (University of Manchester).
March 29, 2017
There is a Robert Bresson retrospective, Robert Bresson: Find Without Seeking, commencing today at the University of Chicago's Doc Films. Ten films are being screened, all 35mm prints with the exception of Une Femme Douce. A link to a description and capsule review of each film (written by programmer Brian VandenBos) is found here. Thanks for the heads-up, Brian!
August 4, 2016
Two important book releases to inform you about: A new edition of Notes on the Cinematograph is slated for a November 15, 2016 release. It's based on a translation from the French (Notes sur le cinématographe) by Jonathan Griffin. On the same date, we're finally getting an English translation of Bresson on Bresson.
Speaking of Bresson's Notes, see Michael Smith's Top 10 Notes here.
Good friend of robert-bresson.com, Michael Dudok de Wit won the Un Certain Regard Special Prize at Cannes for his film The Red Turtle. The film was co-produced by Studio Ghibli. We had a conversation with him a few years back.
November 15, 2013
Tim Cawkwell has added a 16th "Reflection on Bresson" to his excellent website. This time, it's on the music for Pickpocket.
October 15, 2013
Greg Gerke reviews Robert Bresson, Revised (ed. James Quandt), here.
August 22, 2013
Tim Cawkwell reviews Bresson par Bresson: Entretiens (1943-1983) (ed. Mylène Bresson), here.
March 22, 2013
A Robert Bresson retrospective is currently underway in Vienna, Austria.
March 4, 2013
The Criterion Collection has announced a March 26 release of A Man Escaped on DVD and Blu. DVDBeaver's review is already up, here
Tim Cawkwell has recently added a 15th Reflection on Bresson to the excellent Bresson section of his site.
October 27, 2012
In the recent 2012 Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll, Robert Bresson tops the list for the most entries in the top 250 with seven (7) films — and that's not even including Les Anges du péché, Une femme douce or Lancelot du Lac, some of our personal favourites.
Robert Bresson's Four Nights of a Dreamer is being re-released in Tokyo, Japan today. Our Tokyo correspondent, Yoichi Takagi, reports that Japanese Bresson fans are thrilled by this important event (and they are hopeful for a future DVD release). Check out the beautiful official site. The film will be playing for three weeks in Tokyo and will later hit other major cities in Japan, such as Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka. Here is an interesting relevant blog post.
February 18, 2012
Tim Cawkwell now has 14 Reflections on Bresson posted, as of February 2012. We very much appreciate his thoughtful meditations — please head on over to Tim Cawkwell's Cinema and click Bresson!
An excellent interview with James Quandt, in The Globe & Mail newspaper.
TIFF Cinematheque organizes the North American tour of the first Robert Bresson Restrospective in 14 years [PDF]. The Toronto schedule is listed here. The Gene Siskel Film Center programme is here and it's coming to Nashville in March (Thanks, Rick!). Check local listings for screenings near you. The revised edition of James Quandt's Monograph is (currently) scheduled for a March 23 release.
Excellent collection of Bresson posters.
March 6, 2010
We apologize for the long silence, which was in large part due to busy personal lives. Please submit your contributions to newsdesk (address above). We absolutely depend on reader contributions.
The IFC Center in NYC is screening Pickpocket on March 5–7. Thanks to Peter Brogna for the heads-up!
Site visitor MK Raghavendra has written an essay on Bresson for the web journal phalanx.in. The essay is located here.
The Auteurs' own Neil Young on Robert Bresson, here.
A recent English-language books on Bresson: Robert Bresson: A Passion for Film (Tony Pipolo, 2009).
Tim Cawkwell's 10 Reflections on Bresson.
March 7, 2009
Pacific Cinémathèque and the Consulate General of France present Florence Delay in person, and a screening of Trial of Joan of Arc, in Vancouver, Canada, on April 3, 2009 at 7:30 pm. Additional details on the Cinematheque website.
Site visitor Ruy Vasconcelos of Brazil sent us a scan of the cover of the Brazilian edition of Notes sur le cinématographe (Bibliographical reference: Notas sobre o cinematógrafo, Sao Paulo: Editora Iluminuras, 2004). The book has a brief introduction by J.M.G. Le Clézio, and at the end, stills from many of Bresson's 13 features films and a brief biographical note on the author.
November 1, 2008
Please browse our new, extensive Bresson Bibliography (or, alphabetical version), compiled for us by Frank Blaakmeer with generous contributions from Jane Sloan and Shmuel Ben-Gad. We have also posted a digital version of Jan Sloan's Chapter IV: Writings About Bresson [ from Robert Bresson: a guide to references and resources. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1983. ]
Arte Video of France and Germany is releasing Mouchette, and Au Hazard Balthazar. More info here. Also available at www.Chapitre.com. Looks like French language only. Thanks to Wade Rupp for the info!
This year's poster for the Director's Fortnight at Cannes featured Bresson. Apparently, he debuted three films in that section that were deemed too austere for the Official Selection (Four Nights of a Dreamer, Lancelot du Lac, The Devil Probably).
March 29, 2008
Artificial Eye is releasing three Bresson titles in April: A Man Escaped, Lancelot of the Lake, and The Devil, Probably. These will all be available via amazon.co.uk. Also keep an eye on the MovieMail website, where related essays by Bresson-collaborator Jonathan Hourigan will be appearing very shortly. Thanks to Alison Zemell for keeping us updated on these releases.
Kinokuniya of Japan published the Bresson Collection, Vol. 1 a few months ago. The DVD box-set contains The Devil, Probably, Lancelot, and Trial of Joan of Arc. Details on the Kinokuniya website. The google-translated page is perfectly readable.
To whet your appetite, a subtitled fragment from Le Diable probablement may be found on youtube.
Interesting read: Tilda Swinton,
une actrice animale.
Two recent books that may be of interest to Bressonians far and wide:
(a) Richard T. Kelly's first novel, Crusaders. The book pays homage to, inter alia, Diary of a Country Priest (both novel and film), as well as (b) Rune Christiansen's (rather stunning!) The Absence of Music. Both Richard and Rune are robert-bresson.com site visitors.
November 3, 2007
The British Film Institute's retrospective of Bresson's films at BFI Southbank,
under the title Robert Bresson, Probably, has finished.
Screenings were well attended, both for Bresson's own films (each screened twice)
and for those where his influence may be detected
(for details see BFI's website).
Sadly, neither Une femme douce nor Quatre nuits d'un rêveur could be screened, but
Affaires publiques was screened and well-received.
Highlights included Tim Cawkwell's lucid introduction to Un condamné à mort s'est échappé,
in which he disentangled free will and grace, Jansenism and the importance of Pascal
(see also Jonathan Hourigan's earlier interview with Tim Cawkwell as well as
Cawkwell's book, The Filmgoer's Guide to God). Jonathan Hourigan introduced
L'Argent, drawing on his experience of working on the film and Roger Crittenden introduced
Le Diable, probablement, with a delightful narrative concerning an inspiring three-day workshop in
Paris with Bresson and Roger's students from the National Film and Television School.
The panel discussion, chaired by Richard Kelly of Faber and Faber and addressing the proposition
Robert Bresson, Probably, was lively. The writer and director Neil Hunter and Jonathan Hourigan
concentrated on the singular pleasures of Bresson's films, including their spiritual and formal
dimensions and his influence on others, whilst academics and writers Dorota Ostrowska and Rachel
Moore placed Bresson in broader cultural, theoretical and historical perspectives. A knowledgeable
and passionate audience contributed enormously to the evening.
The most thrilling moments, away from Bresson's films themselves, revolved around Mylene Bresson's
gracious and deeply illuminating introductions to Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc and Lancelot du Lac.
She peppered fascinating anecdotes with powerful insights into Bresson's process and intentions.
Perhaps the most memorable concerned her discussion of Lancelot as Bresson's most enigmatic character.
September 3, 2007
The BFI October program has been distributed, with full details on the upcoming Robert Bresson retrospective.
More details on BFI's website: Robert Bresson, probably | Robert Bresson: The Art of Showing Nothing.
It would appear that Quatre nuits and Une femme douce are not being screened, unfortunately.
Marco Vanelli, editor of the Italian film-magazine Ciemme,
published by Cinit — Cineforum Italiano
(one of the national associations of film culture in Italy), sent us a copy of their latest issue, number 152-153, which includes a well-researched
article on a biopic on St. Ignace of Loyola which Bresson was commissioned to direct in Italy in 1948 under the supervision of Universalia
(a major player in Italy at the time, closely tied to the Vatican). The article is written in Italian, and the price of the issue is 15 Euros.
A cover scan is shown on the left (click for a larger version), and here
is the Table of Contents. We also note that their Issue 131-132 was devoted to
Bresson (cover scan).
Site visitor Rob Farmer informs us that BBC Four
broadcast Au Hasard and Mouchette back in July. As Rob put it, "A pleasant surprise to see anything by him at all on TV."
We received the following note from site visitor Michael Partridge of Sheffield, England:
I'm a frequent visitor to your site and have a little advice for those wishing to
order Les Anges du Peche but don't speak French.
Customers of their country's amazon throughout the english-speaking world will find
it easier to order via Amazon France (www.amazon.fr). If you're paying by Debit or
Credit card no conversion of Pounds/Dollars to Euros is necessary. There are even
english Help Pages available (follow the link called "Consultez nos pages d'aide").
The Euroscreenwriters website has some interesting material on Bresson. And so does the Pacific Film Archives. Thanks to Rob Sica for the latter link.
Filmmaker James Day sent us the following note:
I think what you're doing with your site is fantastic. I just graduated film school
and Bresson, who I consider the zenith of cinema, is my favorite director. There's a
YouTube version of my thesis film and here's the link: http://youtube.com/user/Plautus450.
The film, Santa Susana, runs 14 minutes long and is a story about a young girl, Therese,
looking to escape from her lifestyle while being pursued by her tutor Gerard. I think more
than anyone who I've sent the film to, you might be most interested in seeing it given
the Bresson influences. I hope you find time to view the film. Please pardon the reduced
visual quality due to the video compression. Hope you're well and please consider kicking
serious stuff with your site.
And filmmaker Kunal Mehra writes:
[...] I'm an independent filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon and recently completed my feature
film The Wind Blows Where It Will [ windblowswhereitwill.com ].
Its aesthetics and acting were strongly inspired by Robert Bresson (I always carried a copy of
"Notes on the cinematographer" in my pocket while on set). I also owe much cinematic debt to
Chantal Akerman. [...]
...we're always thrilled to hear from filmmakers who are also confessed Bressonians. Keep the letters coming!
July 23, 2007
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne continue to be among our favorite contemporary
filmmakers, and they have contributed a three-minute short to the Chacun son cinéma omnibus film
celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival this year. It's also an affecionate tribute
to Bresson, and can be viewed online here.
July 15, 2007
Our review of Les Anges du Péché is found here.
The British Film Institute is mounting a complete retrospective of Robert Bresson's films, including several by directors influenced by Bresson, in the first half of October. The retrospective is entitled Robert Bresson, Probably. Stay tuned for details.
May 12, 2007
The restored Les Anges du Péché DVD (Gallimard|Synops) is region free, and carries English, Spanish, German, and Italian subs.
[ cover scan |
screengrab ]. We will bring you a review of this
film/DVD very shortly. It may be purhchased from, e.g., chapitre.com or www.cine-memento.fr.
The DVDBeaver review is here.
The latest issue of Senses of Cinema features a special Bresson section, containing the following articles:
Jane Sloan kindly agreed to let us post her Critical Survey
on our website. She even added a (long overdue) note on L'Argent for us.
There was a screening
of Le Diable probablement in New York City, organized by the French
Institute Alliance Française, on March 6. The event also included an introduction and
Q&A with Benoit Jacquot and Jean-Michel Frodon. Site visitor Brian VandenBos informs us that
"...a 35mm print was shown. The print had a lot of dust and dirt,
but it was such a treat to see it on the big screen that I soon forgot about
those shortcomings. Bresson's sound design really
shines through in a cinema experience; DVDs simply cannot do him justice in that regard.".
We have been having email problems here at robert-bresson.com, but the issue has now been rectified.
If you recently tried to submit an item to newsdesk and received a bounced message, please try again.
January 8, 2007
The DVD & script coffret Les Anges du péché is now out.
An initial review with some screengrabs is found here.
The January 3 broadcast of L'Avventura (the radio show) with Laure Adler,
on France Culture, was dedicated to Les Anges du péché, and Bresson's cinema, with guests Mylène Bresson
and Florence Delay. There was also an analysis of the last scene of Pickpocket by Caroline Champetier.
The broadcast is available online until the next broadcast, on January 10. (A digital audio recording of the broadcast is preserved in robert-bresson.com archives.)
January 1, 2007
A transcript of Tim Cawkwell's introduction to L'Argent (as presented in the evening of
Friday 17th November at University College, Oxford; see previous news update), has just been posted in our WORDS section, here.
Bresson-collaborator Jonathan Hourigan provided us with the
following capsule review of Beth Curran's new book.
Beth Kathryn Curran's TOUCHING GOD, THE NOVELS OF GEORGES BERNANOS IN THE
FILMS OF ROBERT BRESSON (Peter Lang, ISBN 0-8204-7826-1) unfolds across
four chapters, book-ended with a brief introduction and conclusion. Chapters
One and Three consider Bernanos's novels, JOURNAL D'UN CURE DE CAMPAGNE and
NOUVELLE HISTOIRE DE MOUCHETTE, whilst Chapters Two and Four consider
Bresson's adaptations of each of these novels.
Curran's book is enticingly short at just 115 pages but still offers close,
lucid and accessible chronological readings of all four texts. Curran reveals
the two artists' differing spiritual concerns and world views and explores
Bresson's strategies for adaptation (more faithful in the case of LE CURE
than MOUCHETTE) with considerable insight. Her painstaking analysis of the
famous multi-layered narration in LE JOURNAL is especially useful to serious
scholars of Bresson's work.
Mouchette is a pivotal film in Bresson's oeuvre. His last in black and white
and his last using non-source music. Also the film which sits at the fulcrum
between those films supposedly concerned with redemption and transcendence
and those whose vision seems more pessimistic (or "lucid" to use Bresson's
preferred term). The two novels and their adaptations also offer interesting
contrasts in terms of the self consciousness of their protagonists. Curran
considers Bresson's visual aesthetic and is especially interested to explore
his innovative and expressive use of sound.
TOUCHING GOD concentrates upon its four texts and does not stray far beyond
their boundaries. Its close reading of the four texts is illuminating.
Curran's book is certainly a welcome addition to Bresson scholarship, perhaps
especially as Bressons approach to adaptation has generally focused more on
the films drawn directly or indirectly from Dostoevsky than from other
sources. Perhaps Curran will also have pointed the way for another scholar
to undertake a similar project in relation to Dostoevsky and Bresson.
A Prosperous and Blessed New Year to all our readers!
November 7, 2006
Tim Cawkwell and Jonathan Hourigan will be introducing L'Argent in the evening of
Friday 17th November at University College, Oxford. Any serious and interested outsiders are welcome to
attend; please contact Nariman Skakov (nariman.skakov[at]university-college[dot]oxford[dot]ac[dot]uk) for further information.
October 24, 2006
A new Bresson-related book is out: Touching God: The Novels of Georges Bernanos in the Films of Robert Bresson by Beth Kathryn Curran.
October 22, 2006
Criterion has announced Mouchette.
August 24, 2006
There will be a Bresson retrospective on the Swedish Cinemateks of Gothenburg, Malmoe and
Stockholm, Sweden. More information here
[ Thanks to Arvid Sollenby for the information!].
We have had the chance to watch Intermedio's DVD release of El Diablo Probablemente. A newly restored transfer forms the basis of this release, and the image quality is simply stunning.
French, with Spanish subtitles.
Aditional details here.
[ 1 |
June 18, 2006
Full details on the upcoming Intermedio (Spain) DVD releases:
A Man Escaped | Lancelot du Lac | The Devil, Probably | The Road to Bresson (and more).
As noted in the Documentaries section of our sister site Nostalghia.com (here), Road to Bresson/De Weg naar Bresson has earlier been published on DVD by the Dutch Filmmuseum (filmmuseum.nl). Spoken languages are Dutch, French, English, and Russian, but the Filmmuseum DVD contains no English subtitles.
Site visitor Jacob Dijkstra of The Netherlands therefore took it upon himself to diligently transcribe the film into English.
Also, we provided him with a DVD copy of the widely circulated English subtitled recording
of the documentary, as recorded off of British television. This enabled him to also assess the accuracy of this version (subtitles, narration). The final result is contained in this PDF document.
Intermedio's Bresson DVDs include a Bresson Bibliography compiled by Fran Benavente. Intermedio have kindly given us permission to post a PDF version of the bibliography here on robert-bresson.com. It will find its permanent home in the Words section. Also watch for robert-bresson.com's own comprehensive Bresson Bibliography, to be published in the Fall. This work, coordinated by Frank Blaakmeer, will include detailed bibliographies/annotations generously donated by Shmuel Ben-Gad, Jane Sloan, and Hans Helmut Prinzler. The end result promises to be the most comprehensive Bresson bibliography ever published.
A summary of Bresson on DVD is found in the latest Senses of Cinema, here...
A letter from a reader in France:
Sur le site de l'Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (ina.fr) plusieurs
interviews de Robert Bresson et de ses "modèles" sont disponibles en
Amazon.fr's listing for Diary of a Country Priest from Studio Canal
now contains more and different information (though it still contains the same cover, complete with the same embarrassing faux pas). In the past it had said it was
unavailable. It now says it is available in one to two days (in France, no doubt),
and gives a review of the film. We are not saying it is definitively available, but it gives the
appearance of being available now. Also a box set of Mouchette, and Au hasard Balthazar
is available from Gaumont/TriStar Home Video — but the covers are the same as the Arte versions. (Thanks
to Wade Rupp for these observations).
April 11, 2006
Intermedio, Barcelona, Spain, report that they will release DVD editions of
Bresson's Un condamné à mort s'est échappé (1956), Le Diable probablement (1977),
and Lancelot du Lac (1974). The releases are slated for end of May. As well, Intermedio will be releasing
a 4th DVD containing the documentary film The road to Bresson (Weg naar Bresson) by Boer and Rood,
with other bonus materials yet to be confirmed.
March 11, 2006
A good article on Bresson in the latest Cineaste magazine: read Tony Pipolo's Robert Bresson: Fire and Ice.
February 12, 2006
Jonathan Hourigan, L'Argent crew-member and frequent robert-bresson consultant/contributor (see, e.g., Inside Bresson's L'Argent and Interview with Tim Cawkwell)
will be speaking on Bresson on three occasions in the UK in the next few weeks. On Monday, 27th February, at Exeter University, he discusses screenwriting and working with Bresson. On Thursday, 23rd February and Thursday, 30th March, at Middlesex University he considers Bresson as a theorist. On Thursday, 23rd February, he discusses the Notes on Cinematography after a screening of Mouchette and on Thursday, 30th March, he looks closely at L'Argent, following a screening of the film.
Hoberman's piece on Pickpocket and Mouchette is found here.
January 13, 2006
The Cinematheque Ontario
present Three by Bresson during the period February 26 to March 5, 2006.
Diary of a Country Priest screens Sunday, February 26 at 3:00 p.m.
Mouchette on Friday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m and Sunday, March 5 at 1:00 p.m.
Au Hasard Balthazar is being screened on Saturday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art have scheduled four screenings of Mouchette.
There will be two screenings on Friday, January 20 at 7:30 and 9:30 and two more on Saturday January 21st at the same times.
The schedule is also available via the LACMA website.
The announced Gaumont DVD release of Un condamné à mort s'est échappé has
officially transitioned from a (repeatedly) Delayed status, to a current status of "Cancelled".
The title has been pulled from most e-tailer websites. We hope to bring you
more information as soon as it is available.
In our March 10, 2004 news update, site visitor Ian Booker requested more information
on Rachel Berendt (Marie-Monique Arkell) who was featured in The Diary of a Country Priest
and who is likely a relation of his. We have received a helpful letter from another person who is also related to
Rachel Berendt, and we would like to put this person in touch with Mr. Booker directly.
However, Mr. Booker's email address no longer appears to be working. Do any of our readers have Mr. Booker's
contact information? Please contact newsdesk.
November 22, 2005
The Oak Street Theatre
in Minneapolis is screening five key Bresson films between
November 18th and December 15th. Each film is slated for a weeklong run. In addition to
classic prints of A Man Escaped and L'Argent, the Oak Street will screen new prints of
Mouchette, Au Hasard Balthazar, and Pickpcoket.
[ Thanks to Dave Andrae, Milwaukee, WI/Minneapolis, MN ].
DVDBeaver's Pickpocket comparison DVD review is found here.
November 4, 2005
The Listen With Your Eyes project is screening Au Hasard Balthazar
on Saturday, November 12 at 7:00 pm at the Rosendale Theatre, Rosendale, NY. Also, Dvortsevoy's
documentaries screen Friday, November 11, at 7:00 pm. Further details on the
Boston-area screenings of Bresson and Dreyer continue this month
at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge as
a part of their Jacques Doillon series:
A Man Escaped on Saturday, November 12 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday, November 16 at 9:30 pm.
Dreyer's Day of Wrath screens on Wednesday, November 16 at 4:45 pm.
And over at the Museum of Fine Arts
in Boston, there's a startling screening of a rare Dreyer silent,
with live jazz accompaniment: Love One Another (1922) on Thursday, November 10 at 8:30 pm
[ Thanks to Matthew Packwood for the info ].
On a somewhat different note: Patent absurdity reaches new heights,
here ("Process of relaying a story having a unique plot"). Behold where the idiocy of Software patents have led us...
October 29, 2005
In our October 10 newsbrief, we uncharacteristically sided with Armond White of the
The New York Press after David Ehrenstein's rebuttal began echoing in various blogs and film fora the
past couple weeks. We carefully avoided commenting on Gary Indiana's essay itself, as we (as with most of
the people in the debates) had not yet had an occasion to read it – screening copies of Criterion's Pickpocket
DVD are only now being distributed. Having now read Mr. Indiana's essay, it has become apparent to us that
much of the recent debates has involved supplementary issues outside the focus of his essay.
While we continue to stand by our position in the Ehrenstein vs. White dispute,
we're offering Mr. Indiana the chance to voice his own rebuttal to White (which he does in his own,
well-known polemical style). We welcome a diversity of interpretations regarding the work of Bresson
and trust our readers to obtain a copy of Mr. Indiana's essay and draw their own conclusions.
Dear News Desk,
I think it might have been useful for the nincompoop who
trashed my essay on Bresson in the New York Press to have
read the actual sentences it contained instead of picking
out buzz words that apparently threw him into such a tizzy
that he forgot to take his medication. Virtually everything
he accuses me of saying was taken so absurdly out of context
that this little storm in a teacup created the false
impression that I said that Michel "rubbed up against people
to cop an orgasm," when the actual sentence likens the act
of pickpocketing to other forms of subway importunity; the
reference to "finding hundreds of lovers in prison" was
clearly a reference to Genet's famous interview on the BBC
regarding his tenure in the Mettray Reformatory; I did not
equate Michel with Camus' Merseault but rather said that any
such comparison lacked real validity. I did, in fact, state
that for Michel the act of pickpocketing had a psychosexual
dimension and that in the real world we live in today, the
Dostoevskian redemptive ending was unlikely to unfold in the
manner suggested by such mannerist auteurs as Paul
Schraeder; in Dostoevski's time, being sent to prison did
not exclude you from the community of fellow humans.
Peasants stood at rail stations to deliver bundles of food
to convicts being shipped to Siberia. I'd like to know who
in today's world has the simple humanity to do anything
remotely similar. Having spent a good deal of time visiting
contemporary prisons in both America and France, I can
assure you that attitudes towards the incarcerated, and the
brutalization they experience there, do not produce
rehabilitated criminals of any type. Furthermore, I am not
unacquainted with persons who knew Bresson quite well, and
have it on excellent authority that he was thoroughly
familiar with the writings of Guy Debord and took them quite
seriously. The journalist who attacked me chose to
misrepresent what I wrote as glib, nihilistic, and
disrespectful of Bresson's artistic intentions. Nothing
could be further from the truth. I have studied all
Bresson's films for many years and if my own opinion
indicates a waning of faith on his part, I am hardly alone
in that assessment. Unfortunately, most American
journalists not only cannot read French but take no interest
in any body of criticism that hasn't been generated by the
outpouring of received ideas American critics attach to any
I am no longer surprised that when a writer is attacked by a
hack with a grudge, the press simply piles on the abuse and
never bothers to read closely any text under attack, but I
would expect better of an organization which I assume is
dedicated to fairly appraising things written about Bresson
instead of jumping on a rather nasty and ill-intentioned
bandwagon. Furthermore, the New York Press article was
apparently personally directed at myself for being what the
writer considers "the wrong kind of homosexual." That is to
say, the kind that mentions, even very much en passant, the
erotic dimension of Michel's apprenticeship to a master
thief and to the act of theft itself.
It is hardly my fault that this journalist does not know how
to read English. That he doesn't know how to read French is
a given, considering the kind of people hired by
publications of this type. But please, before taking it on
trust that some hack's juvenile misreading of a carefully
considered piece of writing deserves repeating ad nauseam,
take the trouble to read the text being parsed so mindlessly
and consider also that simply because I do not share the
pieties of someone who knows nothing about Bresson except to
associate him with the word "Christian," this hardly means
that I have grossly misrepresented his work, and I would
certainly not be motivated by the shabby and dismissive
disregard this so-called writer has attributed to me.
I realize this is rather a dead issue at this point but I do
find it infuriating that so many people who write for
worthless giveaway fishwrap take sick pleasure in twisting
the carefully considered writing of their betters. And I
am, as far as I'm concerned, certainly not an inhabitant of
the crapulous world of submental journalists.
Very truly yours,
In subsequent correspondence, Mr. Indiana adds,...
I do, and did at the time, understand that certain
statements in my essay would elicit very contrary views.
And it is indisputably true that my polemical style can be
abrasive to people who fail to see its intentionally
humorous aspects. However, it never occurred to me that
anyone willing to pay the rather steep cost of a Criterion
DVD would lack the sophistication to distinguish an
unorthodox analysis from a facile screed. Even given that
this all arose before the DVD was even issued, because for
reasons still unclear to me the essay was provided to Film
Forum and blown up as a lobby card, it seems no less
surprising that patrons of Film Forum would exhibit such a
woeful lack of sophistication and tolerance for divergent
Finally, let us add our own two cents' worth. That humour is indeed often a subjective experience, and that there will always be diverging opinions,
can be illustrated by contrasting the following two quotes:
Peter Cowie: "Not that I'm against Dreyer, he possessed a humorous streak that unfortunately never entered Bresson's personality." [Commentary track, the Criterion Edition of Diary of a Country Priest]
Gary Indiana: "Critics frequently link Bresson with Carl Dreyer, which is a bit like pairing August Strindberg with Henrik Ibsen. Like Ibsen, Dreyer has a seamless lack of humor and a solemnity that gives his films the gravity of a cancer
operation. In Bresson, however, the absurdity that delicately fringes Strindberg's dark dramas echoes in whole
passages of deliberately idiotic dialogue, in actions that speak volumes about nothing but feel uncomfortably
textured like real life. Dreyer boils life down to its pivotal moments; Bresson shows that most of our lives
are consumed by meaningless routines. This can be startlingly funny, just when you thought a Bresson movie
couldn't become more grim." [Essay in DVD booklet, the Criterion Edition of Pickpocket, quoted with the
kind permission of the author]
Our own – shockingly noncategorical and decidedly non-vogue – opinion is that
both Dreyer and Bresson possessed a rather profound sense of humour.
Two examples that immediately come to mind are Dreyer's The Parson's Widow and Bresson's
Four Nights of a Dreamer, e.g., the drawn-out shoot-out scene in the film-within-a-film (Bresson's little joke).
Bresson's general use of irony in his ellipses and reversals is also often very refined. Dreyer's brilliant sense of humour is plain obvious
and needs no further introduction.
October 25, 2005
We have received a response from Gary Indiana regarding the issues brought up in the previous two news items. We will bring you his letter in its entirety, later this week.
Having numerous readers in Australia, we decided to take a closer
look at the recent batch of Australian Bresson DVDs (see our April 6 and April 30 news updates, as
well as the October 10 followup). The titles released to date are Pickpocket, Joan of Arc and L'Argent
(with Au hasard Balthazar and Mouchette to follow next year).
All three DVDs are released by the discerning áccent Film Entertainment,
and authored by IML Digital (who, incidentally, have worked with us on the
Masters of Cinema DVD Series). All discs are Region 0 (no region coding), PAL, and
they carry easily readable English subtitles.
Pickpocket: The digital transfer is very satisfying indeed; it is similar to, but perhaps a bit sharper than, that used by Artificial Eye in the U.K., reviewed
Some example screenshots: [ 1 | 2 | 3 ].
áccent include tastefully designed animated menus which differ from those used by mk2 and AE
[ main menu | chapter selection menu | special features menu ]. Babette Mangolte's documentary The Models of Pickpocket is included as the only video extra (aside from an áccent-designed, non-original trailer). The DVD booklet contains a fine essay by Adrian Martin, called The Prince of Pickpocket, wherein he points out an
interesting, and hitherto unremarked, Australian connection hidden within the film.
Joan of Arc: Another beautiful film-to-video transfer, a slightly improved version of the mk2-sourced material used by Artificial Eye in the U.K.,
reviewed here [ example
screenshot ]. The menus are again radically different from those found on
the mk2/AE releases
[ main menu |
chapter selection menu |
special features menu ] (all menus are animated and best appreciated in full motion video).
The Special Features are identical to those contained on the mk2/AE releases. However, the two interviews with Bresson are here combined into one single piece with a chapter stop at the transition point. The Burning Issues of History extra seen on the menu screenshot is the same as the Georges Duby and Laure Adler segment found on the mk2/AE discs. An original essay by Adrian Martin, Prisoner, found in the DVD booklet, rounds off the package.
L'Argent: The transfer is very similar to that used by Artificial Eye, reviewed
here. See also our own review
of the film itself and the Region 1 New Yorker disc.
The image quality is in our opinion quite excellent, and superior to that offered by the Region 1 disc — here is a random screengrab.
The menus are again a radical departure from the standard mk2/AE menus: [ main menu | chapter selection menu | bonus features menu ].
The Special Features consist of an original trailer and a "documentary". This documentary is actually the Marguerite Duras on Bresson (1:27) and
TSR Interview with Robert Bresson (12:56) segments (found on the mk2 and AE discs) joined together, with a chapter stop in between.
The TF1 Interview is not included. The DVD booklet includes an essay by Adrian Martin, called Show me the Money.
All three discs come highly recommended, as they are all based on the original mk2 materials restored under the supervision of
Mylène Bresson — and it is all very professionally presented by áccent Film Entertainment.
áccent inform us that they put considerable effort into improving upon the original mk2 materials.
October 11, 2005
Further to yesterday's news update, we have received the following response from David Ehrenstein.
Dear Mr. Trondsen:
I find your characterization of my remarks on Bresson tantamount to a
wilful misreading of them. I do not "deny" Bresson's Christianity as
reflexively as you imply. I was simply pointing out that Bresson began
his career on a relatively unproblematic note, vis-a-vis spiritual
concerns, that gradually altered so radically that his final films are
those of an atheist. It is disheartening to see Bresson's lengthy,
distinguished and complex career be reduced to a simple common
denominator of unreflexive religious belief when it was plainly anything
but. Likewise the almost deafening silence that has fallen over the
blatant homoeroticism of Pickpocket, Le Diable Probablement, Au Hasard
Balthazar and (my personal favorite) Un condamne a mort s'est echappe.
Very sincerely yours,
Los Angeles, Ca.
We genuinely appreciate Mr. Ehrenstein's reply, but would point out that Bresson's
"lengthy, distinguished, and complex career" also resists reducing his late period
films to an atheistic label, and would emphasize the theism Bresson conveyed in
interviews well into the '70s and '80s (see e.g., Schrader, Hayman,
Ciment, Samuels, and others).
Let us hope future Bressonian criticism can withstand exclusive categories and boxes imposed from all sides of the debate.
The Metro Cinema in Edmonton, Canada, is screening Pickpocket November 25 to 28.
The full programme is found here
[ Thanks to Kyle Armstrong for the heads-up ].
We recently received the following friendly greeting from Finland:
Hello and thank you for your valuable work in keeping the works of Bresson
on our minds. And showing that the Internet can indeed provide a place for
topics that are both intellectual and interesting. And a special thank you
for your good taste in the site design.
I was one of the people in Finland forming the Kokkolan Elokuvakerho Outolempi
(Cine Club Strangelove) in the litte coastal city of Kokkola in the eighties.
As part of our programme, we ran a week of Bresson films [ 1 | 2 ], and that
gave us an idea of compiling a book of texts about Bresson into Finnish, because
none was available at the time. So we found people to translate Paul Schrader's
and Susan Sontag's essays on the subject plus other more recent writings. Then
our Board Member, Mr. Pertti Hyttinen, sent a letter to Mr. Bresson (translated
into French by our Chairman of the Board, Mrs. Outi Aimo-Koivisto) asking
permission to translate and add his Notes sur le cinèmatographe (1975)
into the book (to form its basis, of course).
This is what Monsieur Bresson wrote to Mr. Hyttinen:
"Paris Le 14 Juillet 1988
Je vous remercie de l'interet que vous portez
a mon petit livre Notes sur le cinematographe
et vous autorise bien volontiers àle publier en finnois.
Veillez agreer, Monsieur, l'expression de mes
I would be glad to send this book, "Merkintäjä Robert Bressonista" (published
in 1989 in Kokkola, Finland, by our cine club with the pariticipation the
Institute Chydenius), to you, to be added to your collection of Bresson literature
and memorabilia, as a gift from Finland as thanks to your work on Bresson, and the
immense pleasure it gives Bresson aficionados around the globe. The book is
illustrated, there is also a rare photo by Finnish film critic Jaakko Tervasmäki
of Bresson in Cannes in 1962, and also Bresson's letter is copied into the book.
For this reason, I would need your address.
www.keskipohjanmaa.net (kulttuuri - elokuvat) [elokuvat = films]
October 10, 2005
As many of our readers will undoubtedly be aware of,
in the last few days a controversy has erupted surrounding Bresson.
To wit: in The New York Press,
Armond White takes Gary Indiana to task for trying to deny the religious meanings
in Bresson's work, by attempting to define Bresson in existentialist, nihilist, and anarchistic terms.
Armond White is here referring to Indiana's essay on Pickpocket, which is included in the Criterion Collection DVD.
Within a day of Armond White's piece being published, David Ehrenstein wrote a rebuttal in his October 6th FaBlog entry, stating that all artists should be
open to reinterpretation, and that adhering to the "rule" that (say) Bresson should only be looked at as a Catholic artist is
While not always a fan of Armond White, we most certainly do agree with him in this case.
Trying to make Bresson into something he likely wasn't
doesn't seem to us to be "reinterpretation," but rather an attempt to change the actual meaning of his work.
We respect personal readings so long as they are identified as personal readings. If Mr. Ehrenstein wants to construct a
personalized reading of Bresson's work, he's more than welcome to do so, as long as he acknowledges his subjectivity.
To suggest that
Bresson's religious convictions (so often if cautiously acknowledged by Bresson) are somehow passé in this day and age
– and therefore should be ignored – is flatly irresponsible scholarship. The fact that Mr. Ehrenstein's rebuttal conflates the
"Christianity" of Bresson with the "Christianity" of George W. Bush reveals a profound lack of understanding and a flippant
cultural reactionism that only supports White's argument.
Paul Schrader is being interviewed by WNYC —
here [ mp3 audio file, 7 MB ].
Cinematheque Ontario presents Pickpocket in its new 35mm print for a
limited run, October 14, 15, and 16. More details here.
Les Anges du Peche is screening in NFT2, London, at 8:45 pm, Monday 31st Oct – as billed in the London Film Festival catalogue. Mylène Bresson is expected to be present.
Additional details here.
Rialto's Mouchette page is now up,
Site visitor Dean Schneider writes:
"You mentioned on the news page the release of Bresson's films
Pickpocket, Trial of Joan of Arc and L'Argent on DVD in Australia
but you have thus far not made any more mention of them. I have so
far only bought Pickpocket, and it is a very good disc. The picture
and sound on the film are of first rate quality, and the
documentary Les Modeles de Bresson is very good."
September 10, 2005
On the 28th and 29th of October, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston will show
Pickpocket and Mouchette (both movies on both days), presumably the same new
35 mm prints that are showing in mid-October at Film Forum. More details
[ Thanks to Thomas Treasure and Matthew Packwood for the heads-up ].
The Criterion Edition of Pickpocket (link) will contain an audio commentary by James Quandt, a
video introduction by Paul Schrader, an essay by novelist and culture critic Gary Indiana,
as well as new and improved English subtitle translation. All other bonus materials are identical
to those of the MK2/AE release.
July 27, 2005
The latest issue of Senses of Cinema has a very good article on Bresson by Alex Lipschultz, called The Resolute Aesthetic: Bresson's Lancelot du Lac
[ Thanks to Frank Blaakmeer for the pointer ].
Film Forum, New York, report that they
will be showing Pickpocket in a new 35 mm
print (through Janus) October 7 – 13. Paul Schrader will be introducing a show on opening night.
Also, Mouchette will be screened
in a new 35 mm print (through Rialto Pictures) October 14 – 20.
The World Socialist Web Site carries a newly published article on
L'Argent, The state of the modern soul by David Walsh [ Many thanks to Eddie Kasica for the update ].
We don't normally read this guy, but apparently he has quite a following... search for the word "Balthazar" on this page.
July 12, 2005
Criterion is poised to release Pickpocket (R1/NTSC) in November.
There will be
no commentary track, but a new documentary will be included as a bonus feature on the DVD
[ Thanks to Antony Sellers for the update ].
We note that this release was hinted about by Paul Schrader in various fora already back in late 2003.
It is thus reasonable to expect that he is involved somehow in the aforementioned documentary feature (instead of
what many thought would be a commentary track).
June 22, 2005
Our own review of Criterion's Au hasard Balthazar DVD is located
The Savant also has a review of Criterion's Au hasard Balthazar, found here.
And, finally, a review of Artificial Eye's Trial of Joan of Arc DVD is found at DVDTimes, here.
June 15, 2005
Our review of New Yorker's L'Argent DVD is found here.
May 11, 2005
The Centre national de la cinématographie, Paris,
France, sent this information on the restoration of
Les Anges du péché (1943).
The CNC are actively collaborating with Gallimard on this restoration.
The restored film will be screened during the Cannes Festival.
A world-wide DVD release is in the works. Stay tuned.
April 30, 2005
A Man Escaped will screen as part of
LACMA's new French Cinema and the Occupation series on May 14.
The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London is showing Mouchette on the 2nd and
5th May. More details here.
A review of the Australian Pickpocket release (Accent) may be
A review of the U.K. Pickpocket release (Artificial Eye)
is located here.
Regarding U.K. DVD prices, here is one of the better price comparison sites out there.
[ Thanks, Wayne Spencer ]
The Criterion Edition of Au hasard Balthazar is slated for a June 14 release.
April 16, 2005
Site reader Harry Tuttle kindly provided us with a copy
of his lecture notes, taken down at the April 9 lecture by
historian François de la Bretèque (see our March 21 newsbrief).
April 15, 2005
The second (and arguably the most interesting) part of Jonathan Hourigan's interview with Tim Cawkwell is found here.
British newspapers have carried a number of capsule reviews of
Pickpocket in connection with its theatrical re-release, see
The Artificial Eye press booklet for the film can be found here (PDF file). [Thanks, Wayne Spencer!]
April 7, 2005
In a rather brilliant move, New Yorker has decided to base their DVD cover on Savignac's
L'Argent artwork — see the DVD cover here.
This week's issue of the London listings magazine Time Out carries a review of the cinema re-release Pickpocket by Wally Hammond:
"Released in the same year as Godard's BREATHLESS (1959) and filmed on the same sun-dappled Parisian streets, Bresson's mid-career tale of the mysterious operation of grace and redemption on the fate of a young thief is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Newcomers to Bresson's films — and this new print re-release of PICKPOCKET
is as fine a place as any to enter his unique cinematic universe — may be
surprised to hear that this is perhaps his most optimistic, open, sensuous and
sexually charged film, given its dark Dostoyevskian subject matter.
Even for those used to Kiarostami's minimalism, this is a further step into essentialism. Bresson's actors — 'models' — are non-professional and strictly coached; but there is no mistaking the orgasmic pleasure that sweeps the face of indolent, penurious student Michel (Martin LaSalle) as he succeeds on his first 'dip' at Longchamps racecourse; nor his despair as his world begins to fall apart. Bresson's goals were deep; to sweep away the dross of expectation and viewing conventions by means of a purified cinema. At times in this thief's journal — the extended train station robbery sequence, for instance — his visual discourse touches the sublime." Source: Time Out London Issue 1807: April 6-13 2005, page 76. [Thanks to Wayne Spencer for this item.]
April 6, 2005
Some online retailers have announced that New Yorker's upcoming L'Argent DVD will include a commentary track by Kent Jones.
This is a substantial new "bonus" which is not found on the MK2/AE versions.
New Yorker DVD producer extraordinaire Cindi Rowell gets all the credit for pulling off this feat!
Those who haven't done so already should also check out Kent's excellent BFI Modern
Classics book, L'Argent.
It is high time we mention the Australian DVD releases of Bresson's films.
The Australian company doing this is called Accent. Pickpocket has just been released, replete
with Babette Mangolte's documentary.
Trial of Joan of Arc is slated for a May release.
With each of Accent's Bresson DVD releases — there will apparently be 5 or 6, all English subtitled of course — there is a
new essay on the film in question, unavailable anywhere else, written by
none other than our esteemed colleague Adrian Martin of Rouge.
Rumors are that Accent will eventually do a complete Bresson Box Set.
Cover art and other details of Artificial Eye's Pickpocket release can be accessed
Petr of Nostalghia.cz tells us that he has just reprinted
Petr Malek's substantial 1998 analysis of Diary of Country Priest:
section 1 | section 2 | section 3 | section 4. All in Czech.
A new course is being offered at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada this fall, namely
FS 410 FILMMAKERS Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson.
April 3, 2005
We are pleased to bring you an interview with
Tim Cawkwell, onetime avant-garde filmmaker and
author of the recently published
Filmgoer's Guide to God. In a two-part interview with Jonathan Hourigan,
Cawkwell explores spiritual cinema in general (part one, published today) and the oeuvre and
practice of Robert Bresson in particular (part two, to be brought to you next week).
Cawkwell illuminates mysteries such as
Bresson’s Jansenism and his commitment to Pacsal. He considers
the intellectual and historical milieu that informed Bresson’s
development. In perhaps the most
exciting and original part of the interview, Cawkwell offers
penetrating insights into Bresson’s practice and its
antecedents in spiritual life and practice. During a discussion that
complements themes from Hourigan’s own recent interview with
Cawkwell’s insights cast new light, especially on Bresson’s
choice of narrative sources and his conception of Cinematography.
Now, move on to Part 1 of the interview, found here.
Some online retailers are now taking
pre-orders for New Yorker's L'Argent DVD, due to be released on May 24.
Our friends over at DVDBeaver.com have reviewed the MK2 boxset,
April 2, 2005
There is a very interesting piece in the newspaper
Libération about the recent Bresson DVD releases in France. The article makes
reference to several planned Bonus materials that never made it onto the discs.
We also learn that MK2, ARTE and Gaumont have been working closely together on this
project and that they
initially planned to release their Bresson DVDs simultaneously, on the very same day. This obviously did not
work out, but they still plan to release, at some point in time, The Complete Robert Bresson as one
single DVD box-set. The article, which is mandatory reading, is located
a rough English translation can be found here
(courtesy of the Babel Fish automatic translation service).
[Thanks to David Pouchard of the Ministère de la culture et de la communication
for pointing us to the Libération article]
The long-awaited Criterion Edition of Au hasard Balthazar
has been announced as
March 25, 2005
Now out on DVD in France:
Mouchette and Au hasard Balthazar, both on Arte Vidéo.
The box set containing A Man Escaped/Lancelot du Lac/The Devil, Probably is still planned by Gaumont, but has been postponed until Fall (our DVD Release Calendar has been updated accordingly). [Thanks to David Pouchard for both of the above updates.]
Details of a week-long run of a new 35mm print of Pickpocket at the Renoir in London between 8-14 April 2005 are now available at the Artificial Eye website.
Some release dates for the Artificial Eye Bresson DVDs are given
here, and it all seems to line up with what
we alreay have in our
DVD Release Calendar.
[Thanks to Wayne Spencer for the info.]
The Devil, Probably will screen at the Nashville Film Festival on Saturday,
April 16th at 1:15 pm, according to their website.
The film will be introduced by Harmony Korine. Tickets are on sale now through ticketweb.com. [Thanks to Brandon Bentley for the headsup.]
In connection with the MK2 re-release of Pickpocket/Procés/L'Argent, here is a fine article by Philippe Azoury, La trinité de Bresson.
The "press conference" that was supposed to be included
on the L'Argent disc of the MK2 DVD set appears to be missing from the DVD.
March 21, 2005
MK2 will be releasing their three Bresson films on one screen at the
MK2 Parnasse (Paris, France) theatre on the occasion of their DVD release (see also our February 12 newsbrief below).
More details here.
Further, Lancelot du lac will be screened on Saturday April 9 at 11:45 am at the Reflet Médicis venue in Paris for a debate with François de la Bretèque (historian on medieval culture) who just published a book L'imaginaire Médiéval dans le cinéma occidental (Medieval Imaginary in Western Cinema).
[Thanks to site reader Harry Tuttle of Screenville for this update.]
March 18, 2005
A review of the MK2 Coffret Bresson
is found here.
Several screenshots are included (films, menus, and extras).
It's a rather confusing website, but try to follow the small links at the bottom page.
February 24, 2005
Thanks to Brian Burke, we now have a page dedicated to the Status of Robert Bresson's Films on DVD. We solemnly pledge to keep it a jour.
February 21, 2005
Cover art for the upcoming mk2 DVD box can now be viewed at the Boutique MK2. [Thanks to Wayne Spencer for notifying us ].
Note that this important release does indeed have English subtitles (see also our November 30, 2004 news item). For those in North America who still cannot play discs from Europe (PAL/Region2), simply drop by your nearest major consumer electronics store and pick up, for example, the fine Philips 642 PAL-capable DVD player (normally retails for less than $59). It can be made Region Free very easily via the included remote control [details].
February 17, 2005
The bonus materials included on the upcoming Artificial Eye Pickpocket DVD are:
Interview with Robert Bresson; The Models of Pickpocket — interviews with Martin Lassalle,
Marika Green and Piere Leymarie; Around Pickpocket — discussions with Marika Green,
Jean-Pierre Améris and Paul Vecchialli; Kassagi cabaret performance; Trailer.
February 12, 2005
We are pleased to bring you a conversation with
filmmaker Michael Dudok de Wit [ website ], winner of the
inaugural Prix Robert Bresson.
Michael Dudok de Wit's Academy Award-winning animated short
Father and Daughter will be screened in front of Pickpocket
when the latter is re-released by MK2 in Paris cinemas in mid-March.
February 11, 2005
Mike Fleisch [ website ] reports that UW-Milwaukee will be screening Pickpocket on the 15th and 17th of this month, and Les modeles de Pickpocket on the 16th. Admission is free. More details here.
French film editor Damien Maestraggi informs robert-bresson.com
that Humbert Balsan, prominent French producer and actor in Lancelot du Lac (Gawain)
as well as first assistant director on Le Diable Probablement, died last Monday, February 7.
What follows is today's press release from the cinémathèque, first
in French and then followed by an English translation.
COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE CINÉMATHÈQUE FRANÇAISE
Claude Berri, Président, Martine Offroy, vice-Présidente,
Serge Toubiana, Directeur général, l'ensemble du Conseil
d'Administration et tout le personnel de la Cinémathèque
française ont appris avec émotion et tristesse le décès
d'Humbert Balsan, producteur et acteur, vice-Président de
la Cinémathèque française depuis le 20 juin 2000, et Président
de l'Académie Européenne du cinéma. Ils s'associent à
la douleur de sa famille, de ses proches et de ses collaborateurs.
Acteur en 1973 dans Lancelot du Lac de Robert Bresson, Humbert
Balsan a joué dans de nombreux films, dont Loulou de Maurice
Pialat (1980). En 1976, il est assistant à la mise en scène sur
Le Diable probablement de Robert Bresson. En 1977, il réalise un
portrait de Nadia Boulanger. Il devient producteur en 1978, avec
Le Soleil en face de Pierre Kast. Depuis lors, il enchaîne de
nombreux films, totalisant à ce jour une cinquantaine d'uvres,
parmi lesquelles Quartet de James Ivory, tous les films de son ami
Youssef Chahine depuis Adieu Bonaparte (1984): Alexandrie, encore
et toujours, L'émigré, Le Destin, L'Autre, Silence... on
tourne, et Alexandrie... New York.
PRESS RELEASE OF THE FRENCH CINÉMATHÈQUE
Claude Berri, President, Martine Offroy, vice-president, Serge
Toubiana, General manager, the whole of the Board of Directors
and all the personnel of the French Cinemathèque learned
with emotion and sadness the death of Humbert Balsan, producer
and actor, vice-president of French cineclub since June 20, 2000
and president of the European Academy of Cinema. They offer
their condolances to the grieving family, friends, and collaborators.
Actor in 1973 in Robert Bresson's Lancelot du Lac, Humbert Balsan
played in many films, one of which was Maurice Pialat's Loulou (1980).
In 1976, he was assistant director for Robert Bresson in Le Diable
Probablement. In 1977 he directed a portrait of Nadia Boulanger.
He becomes producer in 1978, with "Le Soleil en Face" by Pierre
Kast. Since then, he produces several films, adding up to about
fifty works to date among which were James Ivory's Quartet, all the
movies of his friend Youssef Chahine since Adieu Bonaparte (1984):
Alexandrie, encore et toujours, L'émigré, Le Destin, L'Autre,
Silence... on tourne, et Alexandrie... New York...
February 1, 2005
Artificial Eye are finally wheeling out
Pickpocket (April 25), L'Argent (May 23), and Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (May 23).
No DVD cover art yet.
Mani Kaul's first film, Daily Bread (1970), was screened last night at CalArt's REDCAT theatre with the director
in attendance. At the event, it was announced that he will be teaching a class on Bresson this semester. The course is called The Work of Robert Bresson: Fragmentation and Meaning. Excerpt from the course description: "Bresson claimed to have forsaken 'representation' in favor of what he described as 'fragmentation.' Representation for him led to a descriptive as opposed to a visionary cinema he strove for through fragmentation. A single image or a single sound thus carried no semantic spillover—it was the juxtaposition of neutral fragments that reveal meaning and emotion through elliptical gaps between them. The class offers an analysis of Bresson's films with reference to his book, Notes on the Cinematographer."
We recently received the following letter from Paris, and thought you might find it of interest.
From : Franck Poncelet
Date : January 6, 2005 5:15:00 AM PST
To : firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Two French film worth noting
Bonjour, happy new year to you and bravo for your splendid work.
I'm a film buff from Paris, France, and there are two new
out-of-the-way French releases I would like to report. First the
bad news: they have no English subtitles. Then the good news: two
little known gems available in very good editions with rich bonuses.
Both films have in common French novelist Jean Giono (1895-1970),
a writer you could compare to William Faulkner in many ways. He
wrote Le hussar sur le toit which was turned into a very dull film
a few years ago.
Crésus (1960) is the only film directed by Giono, from an original
screenplay by himself. It features Fernandel in the main role.
Un roi sans divertissement (1963) (A king without distraction) was
adapted by Giono himself from his 1948 novel and directed by François
Leterrier (the main actor in Robert Bresson's Un condamné à mort s'est
Both films were thought of as out of fashion and out of touch when
they were released in the full swing of the Nouvelle Vague. But,
like good wine, they have aged superbly (which is not the case,
by the way, of every Nouvelle Vague film...).
In Crésus, a poor peasant finds a huge pile of money
in the mountain and is very embarrassed by its trove.
In Un roi sans divertissement, set in mid-19th century in a faraway
village, a police officer must deal with a serial killer, only to
discover afterwards he's been seized by the same urge.
Both films were shot entirely on location, Crésus in black and
white in the Alpes and Un roi sans divertissement in colour in the
Cévennes, and in real snow!
Several stunning scenes could be signed Bergman or Tarkovsky: Crésus
invites his friends to a banquet on a long table on a windswept height,
the police officer kills a goose just to gaze, spellbound, at the blood
spilled on the snow...
These two neglected films are worth revisiting, especially in such editions.
The bonuses are rich indeed. They include a 60-minute long study on Giono
and interview with him and Fernandel in Crésus and a commentary by
director Leterrier in Un roi... plus a 45-minute return to the village where
the film was shot with the cinematographer and the actors.
I could tell you more if you're interested. CinéGénération is apparently a
small company. I don't know if they have any plan to let an English-speaking
company use their work in the future. You'll find in French a presentation of
these two DVDs on www.dvdrama.net
Anyway, these films look great even if you don't grasp a single word of it!
January 30, 2005
Further to our previous news update, here are the DVD cover designs
for the Gaumont/ARTE titles Mouchette,
Un condamné à mort s'est échappé,
Au hasard Balthazar, and the
Un condamné à mort s'est échappé, Lancelot du lac, Le Diable probablement DVD Box.
In our November 30, 2004 news update we mentioned an upcoming (March 16) mk2 Box Set. Thus far, the only cover art
we have come across is rather awful — let's hope this is nothing more than an unofficial mockup.
The Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, is screening Au Hasard Balthazar with seven showings. The film is part of "Nashville Premiere's Best of 2004 Festival" — further details here.
Many thanks to Tony Youngblood of Mayfield, KY, for the update.
January 26, 2005
Gaumont and ARTE TV are planning to release the following DVDs
on March 22. No information regarding subtitles.
Thanks to David Pouchard, Ministère de la culture et de la communication, Paris,
for the information.
- Un condamné à mort s'est échappé.
Bonus materials under preparation.
- Au hasard Balthazar.
Bonus materials: An introduction to the film by Philippe Azoury.
Excerpts from a TV program produced by Roger Stéphane, "Pour le plaisir,"
aired 11/06/66, 50 minutes.
- Mouchette. Bonus materials: A 10-minute introduction to the film, by
Pierre Azoury. A TV program, "Cinéma," dedicated
to the filming of Mouchette, aired on 26/01/67, 7 minutes.
Robert Bresson interviewed by Belgian TV in 1966, 7.5 minutes.
- A 3xDVD Box containing the titles Un condamné à mort s'est échappé, Lancelot du lac and Le Diable probablement. Bonus materials under preparation.
Dan Talbot's 2004 Gotham Awards Speech can be found here. Some Bresson trivia in there.
December 7, 2004
A combined Bresson/Renoir retrospective has commenced in Prague. Among the films
being screened is Affaires publiques.
More details here (in Czech).
Site visitor Tim Cawkwell sent us a nice note, informing us about
a book he recently published:
The Filmgoer's Guide To God (London: Darton Longman & Todd, GBP 10.95, ISBN 0-232-52466-1).
Says the author, "I attach a contents list from which you will see that pride of place goes to Bresson, Dreyer, Rossellini and Tarkovsky, with Bresson being primus inter pares in this august group. I make reference to virtually all his films but concentrate rather on the first half of his career."
The book is available through the Norwich cathedral shop.
Paul Schrader writes,
"I have a letter [Robert Bresson] wrote me in 1980 you are free to copy or quote from, in it he said..."
I do not know how to thank you for all that you have done on my behalf.
It is unfortunately too true that I am having great difficulty financing
this film which I will call, if I do it, L'argent. But I think really
that I will renounce directing such as it is in the current situation. Too
bad or so much the better! I will write, or return to painting.
I can't at the moment think of coming to the USA, but I would have liked
to have seen you again.
With all my gratitude fondly to you,
November 30, 2004
French distributor mk2
have just announced that they intend to release a DVD box-set containing three Robert Bresson films on March 16, 2005.
Each film will have English, German, Italian and Spanish subtitles. Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc will include
a theatrical trailer, foreword by French journalist P. Azoury (20 mins), interview with Robert Bresson and Mario Beunat
(5 mins), interview with Jean Guitton (5 mins), and an audio speech by André Malraux (20 mins). L'Argent will include
the Cannes press conference (41 mins), and a sequence in which Truffaut speaks about Robert Bresson (2 mins).
Pickpocket will include Babette Mangolte's Les Modèles de Pickpocket (52 mins), the French TV program
Cinepanorama (7 mins), and Robert Bresson's speech at the prestigious French film school IDHEC (2 mins!).
[Thanks to David Pouchard, Paris, for this information]
Closer inspection of Nouveaux's Au hasard Balthazar (see our previous news update) has revealed
some very brief, but unsightly, digital pixelisation at 1:18:08 and at 1:23:41.
A review of Nouveaux's Mouchette DVD may be found over at DVDTimes.
November 20, 2004
DVDs of Au hasard Balthazar and Mouchette have landed
on our newsdesk, courtesy of Nouveaux Pictures, U.K.
The discs have been mastered from restored prints, and the video quality is simply stellar, as seen
in the following frame captures
[ Balthazar i |
Balthazar ii |
Balthazar iii |
Mouchette i |
Mouchette ii |
Mouchette iii ]. We have passed a somehat more
detailed technical review on to our colleague over at
[ Au hasard Balthazar review |
Mouchette review ].
Both come highly recommended!
Incidentally, these PAL discs are not region coded, so they can be played on even "region-locked"
laptop computers in addition to, of course, any PAL-capable DVD player (see e.g., our September 13 update).
September 30, 2004
Virginia Film Festival is offering
the workshop Shot by Shot: Pickpocket with Paul Schrader and Robert Kolker on Friday, October 29, at 4:00 pm (Regal 4).
"The festival's shot-by-shot workshops are among the audience's favorite programs every year. Director and screenwriter Paul Schrader will be joined by the eminent film scholar, Robert Kolker (author of The Altering Eye and A Cinema of Loneliness) for a detailed examination of several key sequences of Robert Bresson's classic Pickpocket, which screens in its entirety at 10AM on Friday. A rare educational experience that's not to be missed!"
[Thanks to site reader Christian Hamaker for alerting us]
Adrian Martin briefly mentions Bresson in his article on
narration in the French New wave for
Criterion's Focus e-journal.
The Union Theater at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will be screening
several Robert Bresson films from October 20th through
the 26th. The films scheduled are, Diary Of
A Country Priest; A Man Escaped; the newly restored
print of Au Hasard Balthazar; Lancelot Du Lac; The
Devil, Probably; L'Argent; as well as
Weyergans' Without A Trace (Bresson, ni vu ni connu).
The complete programme can be viewed here (scroll down).
[Thanks to filmmaker (and frequent site visitor) Dave Andrae for the tip!]
September 27, 2004
Colin Burnett, in his relentless search for
lucidity, conducted this interview
with L'Argent crew-member Jonathan Hourigan. The interview is a robert-bresson.com/Offscreen co-production.
September 20, 2004
Nouveaux Pictures have provided us with this DVD sleeve for
their upcoming Mouchette DVD (R2/PAL). Click to enlarge. Both Mouchette and
Au Hasard Balthazar (see previous news update) are from newly restored prints, and are presented in
anamorphic widescreen. Bonus materials include a picture gallery and a text filmography.
Official streetdate is now November 22. Stay tuned for our reviews of these two DVDs.
Check out this brief note
on The Models of Pickpocket from the Village Voice.
Curzon Mayfair (London) are screening a Double Bill of Mouchette and Au Hasard Balthazar, at 12:00 on Sunday 26 September.
September 13, 2004
According to Moviemail,
Au Hasard Balthazar
and Mouchette are slated for an October 25 release
from Nouveaux Pictures. Nouveaux provided the cover scan on the left — click to enlarge.
Mouchette cover to follow shortly.
For those in Region 1 still unable to play PAL/R2 discs, this may be the best excuse you'll ever get
to buy a region-free player. Check out the Malata DVDP 393a ($80); this
modest player does feature excellent PAL to NTSC conversion. See the
DVDBeaver review and the
Nerd-Out Forum for more player details.
San Paolo Multimedia, Italy, has just released Mouchette
on DVD. No English subtitles.
More information here.
[Thanks to Manuele Lemme for the tip]
Bresson appears to be the most-selected filmmaker of presenters in Toronto International
Film Festival's Dialogues: Talking with Pictures (see previous news update).
Please take a moment to read
these comments by Chantal Akerman.
August 29, 2004
Anthology Film Archives (New York) report
that they will be presenting a week-long theatrical run of
Babette Mangolte's The Models of
Pickpocket, from September 17 (at 9 pm) to September 23, as part of a Mangolte
retrospective. They will also be screening Robert Bresson's Pickpocket itself once a day from
Friday, September 17 (at 7 pm) to Sunday, September 19.
Full details will be available shortly at the
Anthology have provided us with two sets of images from Babette Mangolte's The Models of
The first one shows Martin LaSalle, the protagonist Michel (believe it or not).
The second shows Pierre Leymarie, who plays his friend, Jacques.
Photo Copyright © 2003 Babette Mangolte (All rights Reserved).
Included in the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival's Dialogues: Talking with Pictures series ("Dialogues showcases seven films that have influenced the lives of the presenters, and include extensive question-and-answer sessions following each screening"), we find
"Chantal Akerman (DEMAIN ON DÉMÉNAGE) presents Robert Bresson's DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (JOURNAL D'UN CURÉ DE CAMPAGNE) (1950). Bresson's adaptation of the Georges Bernanos novel is a masterpiece, a pure and intense account of a young priest whose faith is neither understood nor accepted by his village."
Mastersofcinema.org's own Nick Wrigley has just received a copy of the
British Film Institute's Les Dames DVD
and provided us with the following quick comparison between it and the earlier Criterion edition:
They're different transfers, but probably from the same print. When the first
title comes on screen - "Paul Bernard" - the bfi version repositions itself,
and "Paul Bernard" moves down the screen slightly. This does not happen on the
Criterion version. Hence, definitely different transfers. The bfi version seems
to have everso slightly better contrast and resolution but the difference is
marginal. The sound defect "skkkwrrrr.... skkkwwrrrr... skwrrrr" is present on
both versions. The bfi thank Films Ariane (same as Criterion). The bfi disc only
offers the original film poster (a 10 second video piece that goes back to the
menu of its own accord, and might have been better as a static gallery screen).
For completeness, let us mention that the Japanese edition
includes an alternate opening sequence as bonus material (see our DVD section).
Our own Doug Cummings wrote a piece for Movie Mail in connection with the
BFI release — read it
here (scroll down).
Finally, the Les Dames audio problems mentioned by Nick have been discussed elsewhere,
in this article.
July 26, 2004
Colin Burnett responds to Kevin Lee's Rafferty rebuttal (see July 22 newsbrief) with this article, entitled
More Than Meets the Eye: A Response to Kevin Lee and Terrence Rafferty.
July 24, 2004
The British Film Institute's
upcoming DVD of Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne:
cover scan | sleeve notes.
July 22, 2004
Filmmaker Kevin Lee has submitted the following
rebuttal to Terrence Rafferty's recent New York Times article
(see July 6 newsbrief).
Turner Classic Movies will be screening Bresson's Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (1962)
on October 15, at 2 am. See the TCM
Bostonians can look forward to a Bresson retrospective at the Brattle Theatre some time later this year (according to preliminary intelligence
gathered by Trond during his visit to Boston last week.)
António Torres informs us of the publication of the first ever
Portuguese edition of Bresson's Notes on the Cinematographer:
Notas sobre o Cinematógrafo
Porto: Elementos Sudoeste, 2004
July 6, 2004
The New York Times, July 4th, had a piece on Bresson
written by Terrence Rafferty. The article is entitled
The Austerity Campaign that Never Ended,
and centers around the new Lancelot du Lac and A Man Escaped DVDs from New Yorker.
[Thanks to Rob Sica for notifying us of the article]
Bresson's Au hazard Balthazar will be showing in San Antonio later this month.
Refer to the Texas Public Radio's Cinema section
for the full details. [Thanks to Eugenio Solis for the heads-up!]
MK2 France reports:
"MK2 Editions plans indeed on releasing a Bresson collection, but not until next year
(the exact date has not yet been defined). Nevertheless, these DVDs will include English subtitles
on the films as well as on the bonuses. Thank you for showing interest in MK2 products.
Best Regards, Andrew Wilsdorf, MK2 Editions"
June 9, 2004
Some comments from film critics Glenn Kenny and Daryl Chin, received in response to our recent articles on PAL Speedup and the
New Yorker DVDs A Man Escaped & Lancelot of the Lake, have been posted here.
While on the topic of sloppy DVD transfers, we have noted with great worry that the running time of the upcoming
(September 7) Koch/Lorber (previously Fox/Lorber) NTSC DVD release of Fellini's La Dolce Vita is listed as 167 minutes. The actual running
time of the film, as seen in the theatre, is 174 minutes. The 4% discrepancy suggests that the disc set has been
mastered from a PAL source, and that severe "ghosting" — as witnessed on the New Yorker Bresson DVDs — can be expected. This would clearly be unacceptable,
and we hope you will let Koch/Lorber know as much.
(Keep an eye on mastersofcinema.org for further updates on this particular disc set).
May 29, 2004
We take a closer look at PAL speedup of NTSC DVDs—a pet peeve of many—in the article
Case Study: A Man Escaped (New Yorker DVD).
It is also a matter of principle; unless voices of objection are raised concerning issues such as these, what technological compromises
will DVD producers try to ram down our throats next?
May 27, 2004
MK2 of France have announced the following Bresson titles on DVD for September 2004:
Quatre nuits d'un rêveur, L'Argent, Les Anges du péché, Pickpocket and Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc.
Presumably Artificial Eye will pick up these titles for the U.K. market, adding English subtitles.
May 26, 2004
Offscreen editor Donato Totaro has called our attention to
the current (April 2004) and previous (March 2004) issues of his on-line journal, which contain
a total of ten new essays and reviews on Bresson and his work.
Both issues can still be accessed from the offscreen.com front page.
May 20, 2004
Check out our review of the new Lancelot du Lac DVD from New Yorker Video, here!
May 18, 2004
Our review of New Yorker's A Man Escaped DVD is found here.
May 13, 2004
DVD titles The Devil, Probably, Lancelot du Lac, and A Man Escaped — originally
slated for a May release by Artificial Eye (U.K./R2) — have suddenly disappeared from U.K. e-tailer websites.
Artificial Eye informs us that, "[...] the restoration and
production of bonus features is taking longer than expected and the releases
have, unfortunately, been delayed until the autumn. [We] will advise you when [we]
have a confirmed release date."
Watch this news page for our upcoming reviews of the New Yorker R1 DVDs of Lancelot du Lac and
Man Escaped. (We have put some initial comments and screenshots up on our parent site, mastersofcinema.org; see May 13 update.)
Au Hasard Balthazar and Diary of a Country Priest will be screened May 26 & 27 at
7:30 p.m. in Los Angeles at the New Beverly Cinema, 7165 Beverly Blvd. Tickets $6.
March 10, 2004
The following note from Ian Brooker of the U.K.
appears to provide some new information hitherto unavailable to Bresson scholars.
If you have additional information to contribute in this matter, please do let us know.
Ian's contact information is available upon request.
From : Ian Brooker
To : robert-bresson.com
Date : Wednesday, March 10, 2004 4:22 am
Subject : Diary of a Country Priest: Marie-Monique Arkell
Dear Trond Trondsen,
I am writing to you regarding Marie-Monique Arkell, who appeared as
the Countess in Robert Bresson's Journal d'un Curé de Campagne (1950).
I have just acquired the Criterion Collection DVD of the above film
and have listened to Peter Cowie's commentary. He states that nothing
is known about this actress and that she appeared in no other film
before or after.
Marie-Monique Arkell was my second cousin (twice removed). To my
knowledge she appeared only once under this name — her baptismal
name. She was, however, far better known in Paris and elsewhere under
her nom de theatre — Rachel Berendt. In fact she appeared under the
latter name in at least two other films: Augustin Genina's Paris
Beguin (1931) with Jean Gabin and Fernandel; and Carlos Borcosque's
Una Vez en La Vida (1941).
She enjoyed a very successful stage career in France, England, and in
North and South America up until the outbreak of the Second World War.
A devoted follower of Sarah Bernhardt, she published a memoir of the
great actress Sarah Bernhardt en mi Recuerdo in Buenos Aires in
It is likely that she spent the duration of the War in South America.
She came from impressive English theatrical stock: her grandfather was
the English dramatist, T.W.Robertson — the author of Caste and her
great aunt was the actress, Dame Madge Kendal. Her first cousin was
Philip MacDonald — the detective thriller writer and Hollywood
She was married twice: firstly to the actor, Pierre Fresnay, and then
to the writer and director, Louis Verneuil. She died in Paris in
I am researching her career and would be grateful for any information
from Bresson scholars.
March 6, 2004
The Music Box theatre in Chicago will be showing A Man Escaped
on March 13 and 14. Au hasard Balthazar opens March 19 [ programme ].
March 4, 2004
report that they will be releasing Lancelot of the Lakes and A Man Escaped on DVD on May 25th.
They will also be releasing L'Argent toward the end of the year. Keep an eye on their
Thanks to Simon Lepine for relaying this information to us.
The following U.K. DVD releases are currently in the works:
Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc, Pickpocket, and L'Argent from Artificial Eye, and
Au Hasard, Balthazar and Mouchette from Nouveaux Films.
March 2, 2004
Italy appears to be one step ahead of the rest of the world:
Sanpaolo Audiovisivi has just released two additional Bresson films on DVD: A Man Escaped andThe Devil Probably. No English subtitles.
We recall that the same distributor released Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc, L'Argent and Pickpocket in November of last
year. Thanks to Gregory Meshman for the update. Our DVD Section has been updated.
February 29, 2004
Brian Belovarac of Thursday Screeners, a student-run film society at
Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, informs us that they will be holding a
free screening of New Yorker's 16mm print of
L'Argent on March 4. The screening will take place at 8 pm in Gifford
Auditorium in the Huntington Beard Crouse building on campus, and
any interested parties in the upstate New York area are encouraged to attend.
The society website/schedule is located here, and a campus map
is available here.
February 27, 2004
Writer/critic Daryl Chin sent us his fascinating article, The Strange Luck of Au Hasard, Balthazar. Not to be missed!
Now test your own luck: Win a free copy of Criterion's Diary of a Country Priest DVD — here!
February 21, 2004
The Museum of Modern Art's The Hidden God: Film and Faith series is screening The Devil Probably on Monday, February 23rd, at 6:00 pm. Screeenings are at the Gramercy Theatre on 23rd Street in Manhattan.
James Quandt writes about the film in MoMA's accompanying book.
Filmmaker Babette Mangolte informs us there will be a screening of her new film, The Models of Pickpocket, at the School of the Arts Institute in Chicago on April 8th, 2004.
February 9, 2004
Our review of Diary of a Country Priest (Criterion DVD, 2004)
can be found here.
February 8, 2004
The following interesting footnote, submitted by Daryl Chin,
serves to shed some light on Robert Bresson's casting methods.
As is well-known, he did not particularly enjoy the
process of casting, and preferred to stick with people within his own social
circles. It is interesting to note that not one, but two marriages
resulted from the making of Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar and Bertolucci's Masculin Feminin...!
From : Daryl Chin
To : T. Trondsen/robert-bresson.com
Date : Sun, 08 Feb 2004 12:05:38 -0500
Subject : Bertolucci info on Bresson casting
At the Pinewood dialogue session sponsored by the American
Museum of the Moving Image (following a special screening of
THE DREAMERS), Bernardo Bertolucci explained why he cast
Eva Green and Louis Garrel as the leads of his movie (this
is their first "major" appearances in a film). As the name
suggests, Louis Garrel is the third generation of Garrels
(after his grandfather, the actor Maurice, and his father,
the director Philippe); Bertolucci explained that, in 1968,
with LA CONCENTRATION and LE REVELAT EUR, Philippe Garrel
(at the age of 18) would be the "enfant terrible" of
European cinema (a status that Bertolucci enjoyed after THE
GRIM REAPER and BEFORE THE REVOLUTION, which he made before
he was 23). Bertolucci admitted that he was always jealous
of Philippe Garrel's youth, and, now, in his movie about
1968, he was able to cast the son.
But it is Eva Green who is relevant to this discussion.
AU HASARD BALTHAZAR and Godard's MASCULIN FEMININ have more
affinities than many of us realize. In Sight & Sound in
1966, Richard Roud wrote an article in which he discussed
both movies, which were both produced under a deal with
Svensk Filmindustri. (Other films done as French-Swedish
co-productions during that time were Agnes Varda's LES
CREATURES and Alain Resnais's LA GUERRE EST FINIE.) In
MASCULIN FEMININ, "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola" were
played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, Chantal Goya, Catherine-Isabelle
Dupont, Michel Debord, and Marlene Jobert (her
screen debut). Marlene Jobert, of course, would go on to a
notable screen acting career; she would also marry a
Swedish dentist, with whom she would have twin daughters,
Joy and Eva Green. The dentist she married was named
Walter Green. Yes, he played Jacques, the rich young man
whom Marie jilts in favor of Gerard, in AU HASARD BALTHAZAR.
(His only acting credit.) All these years, I had never been
able to identify the Swedish cast members in AU HASARD
BALTHAZAR (part of the deal was that the films had to have
Swedish participation, thus in MASCULIN FEMININ there is the
film-within-a-film with Eva Britt Strandberg and Birger
Malmsten, in LES CREATURES there was Eva Dahlbeck, in LA
GUERRE EST FINIE there is Ingrid Thulin). All the
information on BALTHAZAR did not mention the cast, and did
not give detailed information (you had to know that Pierre
Klossowsky was a notable writer, because no press
information provided by the original publicity materials
had this information). When AU HASARD BALTHAZAR was
released in France, the film critic Claude Mauriac released
the information that Anne Wiazemsky was his niece (and,
therefore, the granddaughter of Francois Mauriac). But who
was Swedish in the cast of AU HASARD BALTHAZAR has always
been a mystery.
Until now. Not only did Bertolucci identify Walter Green as
the Swedish cast member of AU HASARD BALTHAZAR, he explained
that Walter Green had been cast in BALTHAZAR because
Bresson had needed a Swedish cast member, and he had already
cast a Swedish person in a major role in a previous film.
Yes, Marika Green, the heroine Jeanne in PICKPOCKET, had
been a student in Paris, but she was Swedish, so when
Bresson needed another Swedish cast member, he contacted the
Green family, and Marika's younger brother Walter came so
that Bresson could fulfill his contractual obligation to
This makes the second marriage that resulted from the
proximity of AU HASARD BALTHAZAR and MASCULIN FEMININ (the
first being, of course, the marriage of Jean-Luc Godard and
Anne Wiazemsky). And the result of Marlene Jobert's
marriage to Walter Green was twin daughters, Joy and Eva,
and Eva Green is now the star of Bertolucci's THE DREAMERS,
playing one of the generation of 1968, "the children of Marx
I spoke to Annette Michelson, giving her this information
about the connection between Marika Green and Walter Green,
and she informed me that, when she had the occasion to
observe Bresson at work (in the summer of 1971, while he was
filming FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER), the girl cast was
Isabelle Weingarten, whose parents published a notable
literary journal in Paris (similar to the Epsteins and The
New York Review of Books) and Isabelle herself had been a
published poet by the time she was 19 (and she has continued
with a literary career).
Then there is the casting of Guinevere in LANCELOT DU LAC:
when Bresson first tried to set up the project in the
mid-1950s, he had hoped to cast a young artist, Niki De
Saint Phalle. When he eventually made the movie twenty
years later, he simply cast Niki De Saint Phalle's daughter
Laura as Guinevere.
Footnote: The Pinewood Dialogue with
Bernardo Bertolucci took place on Monday, February 2, 2004.
Link to Eva Green press-still added by robert-bresson.com.
January 18, 2004
Robert-bresson.com close friend and collaborator Jonathan Hourigan
has written this interesting article
for MovieMail, encapsulating Bresson's Modernism as well as Bresson's own specific background.
Note the plug at the bottom of the article; the cat is out of the bag — our
readers have a real treat in store... stay tuned.
January 8, 2004
Criterion informs us that their upcoming DVD of
Diary of a Country Priest will not include the previously announced 11 minutes
of deleted scenes and rushes from the NCC. Bresson had requested that these never be made
public, and Criterion intends to respect the Director's wishes.
December 19, 2003
The Harvard Film
Archive is pulling out all the stops the next two months with a
retrospective of some of critic Serge Daney's favorite films. These
include works by Allen, Bergman, Bresson, Carné, Clément, Eastwood,
Eustache, Fellini, Ford, Franju, Hawks, Hitchcock, Kramer/Douglas,
Laughton, Losey, Ophüls, Resnais, Scorsese, Tati, Wajda, and a
documentary and symposium on Daney himself. Bresson screenings are, Pickpocket (January 10 at 21:15,
January 12 at 21:00) and Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (January 12 at 19:00).
Thanks to Matthew Packwood for the heads-up.
Rialto Pictures have informed us of the following screening schedule
for Au hasard Balthazar.
Jan 31 NEW YORK, NY MoMA Film at the Gramercy Theatre
Feb 13-19 SILVER SPRING, MD AFI Silver
Feb 20-23 DETROIT, MI Detroit Film Theatre
Mar 19-25 SEATTLE, WA Varsity
Apr 9-15 CAMBRIDGE, MA Kendall Square
November 26, 2003
We recently had the chance to chat with Kate Elmore, the producer of
the upcoming Criterion Collection DVD of Diary of a Country
Priest. This release was first mentioned by Peter Becker during
a Home Theater Forum chat on October 23, 2001,
so the two-year wait has been a long and hopeful one.
The print used for the DVD comes direct from Studio Canal in
France and, per Criterion's usual methods, will include
newly-translated English subtitles.
Supplements will include, amazingly, 11-minutes of deleted scenes
from the National Center
of Cinematography in France. It's commonly known that Bresson
shortened his initial cut due to time constraints, mostly subplots
involving the priest's interactions with his parishioners, so this
footage has never been widely seen.
The disc will feature a commentary by noted film scholar Peter Cowie,
who focuses on the relationship between the film and Georges Bernanos'
The liner notes were written by Frédéric Bonnaud and translated by
Kent Jones and Gavin Smith. (It's likely this piece was first
published in the May/June, 1999 issue of Film Comment devoted
Ms. Elmore also commented on the release's cover art (pictured
above; click to enlarge), saying it was an image in their heads from the beginning and
that they were trying to stay away from any "star-like" images of
Claude Laydu in keeping with Bresson's approach to nonprofessional
actors. The cover art is a more symbolic design featured in
black-and-white sepia tone.
Although Criterion is hesitant to confirm plans for any specific
Bresson releases in the future, Kate Elmore affirmed that "We're all
about Bresson, here."
The Criterion Collection Diary of a Country Priest will be
released in early February, 2004. -DC
November 24, 2003
As part of the retrospective
The Fantastic Cinema of Jean Cocteau
the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will be screening Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne on
November 28 at 4:00pm and November 30 at 4:15pm. Thanks to
Matthew Packwood for the heads-up.
November 13, 2003
Sanpaolo Audiovisivi has just released three of Robert Bresson's films
on DVD, through Fox Italy: Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc, L'Argent and Pickpocket. Subtitles are
French and Italian. Thanks to Paolo Pardo and Gregory Meshman for the update.
November 9, 2003
We asked Richard Hell a while
back to send us a brief update from his next Bresson screening/introduction
event. Read his report, which he refers to as a "kind of chatty, highly adjectival,
account of the evening," here.
November 7, 2003
Update from New Yorker, U.S.A.:
"We will be releasing the DVD of L'ARGENT and A MAN ESCAPED, though it
will not happen in December. We are [still] working to get good digital material
from which to make the DVD's." (This is a follow-up to our July 16 and May 24 newsbriefs).
November 6, 2003
Update from Britain:
In 2004, Nouveaux Pictures will release Au Hasard, Balthazar and Mouchette on DVD,
while Artificial Eye will put out L'Argent, The Devil Probably, Lancelot du Lac
as well as A Man Escaped (Pickpocket not yet confirmed). Keep an eye on
our mastersofcinema.org DVD release calendar for
exact dates, as they become available.
November 3, 2003
Update from France:
Arte confirms in their latest DVD catalogue that Mouchette and Au hasard Balthazar are
scheduled for a 2004 release. MK2 will be releasing Pickpocket, L'Argent, and
Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc in 2004. Thanks for the update, Arnaud!
October 24, 2003
Criterion's new DVD catalog, now shipping with their
Tokyo Story disc set, seems to suggest a January/February 2004 release
for Diary of a Country Priest. The cover should show up here some time in November.
October 21, 2003
New York-based writer Richard Hell offers a unique and highly personal perspective on
The Devil, Probably in this article.
October 15, 2003
See J. Hoberman's rather succinct review of
Au Hasard Balthazar, here
(The Village Voice).
The following interesting information from James Quandt recently appeared in
an otherwise somewhat misguided discussion thread on the
Criterion Collection Forum:
From James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario:
As the organizer of the Bresson retrospective that travelled in North
America in the late nineties, I had to find the elements, negotiate
the rights, and get prints made of many of his films. It was very
difficult to find adequate elements for LES ANGES DU PÉCHÉ, but the
final 35mm print looked reasonably good. The rights for the film
actually reside with a major French book company, with whom I worked
on the project. As for FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER, this has
been unavailable for many years because of rights problems, but we
managed to get all the necessary permissions to get a new print made
(from the original elements) and newly subtitled. A nice coincidence
was that the cinematographer happened to be working on another
film in the same lab, happened to notice FOUR NIGHTS on its
worksheets, and asked to oversee the striking and colour timing of
the print, which perhaps explained why it looked so great. (There are
minor, irreparable flaws in the elements.) Those who saw FOUR
NIGHTS in the retrospective may be the last in North America to ever
have a chance to see it on screen.
September 24, 2003
Check out Rialto's new Balthazar page.
September 19, 2003
Les Modéles de Pickpocket screens on
Saturday, Sept. 20, 3pm, at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin TX , U.S.A.
The director will attend. See this writeup in The Austin Chronicle.
September 14, 2003
Further to our May 8, June 16, and September 7
newsbriefs on the history of the North American distribution of Au Hasard Balthazar
and Mouchette, we just received the following letter from New York
based writer and art critic Daryl Chin. It is reproduced here with his permission.
From : Daryl Chin
To : robert-bresson.com
Date : Sun Sep 14, 2003 11:22:55 Canada/Mountain
Subject : Re: theatrical run of AU HASARD BALTHAZAR
In 1969, a new company called Cinema Ventures, run by two young men who had
just graduated from Yale, Thomas Russell III and Martin Rubin, announced
their first two acquisitions: the North American rights to AU HASARD,
BALTHAZAR and MOUCHETTE. However, the actual finances involved in a
theatrical run for the films in New York City proved to be daunting. They
were unable to release the films, and the rights were soon bought out by Dan
Talbot of New Yorker Films (this happened around 1972). He immediately
listed the films in his catalogues, and the films had numerous screenings at
the various repertory houses in New York City, including Talbot's own New
Yorker Theater, the Carnegie Hall and Bleecker Street Cinemas, the Cinema
Village, the Elgin, and the Thalia. But none of these screenings was for
more than a day, and so officially, AU HASARD BALTHAZAR and MOUCHETTE never
had theatrical releases in New York City. AU HASARD BALTHAZAR's theatrical
run at Film Forum will be the first official theatrical run for that film
EVER in New York City. (Cinema Ventures soon folded; they had also intended
to have a magazine, which was called ON FILM, and they did come out with one
very impressive issue. Among the contributors were Robin Wood, Peter
Bogdanovich - his extensive interview with Otto Preminger - and Stuart
[Incidentally,] I was the person who helped curate the first Bresson
retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in February of 1970; I helped Thomas
and Marty when they were trying to release the films, and I remember the two
press screenings which we set up, and the press book we prepared. But they were
never able to book the films in a theater where they would not have to incur
all the expenses. And they didn't have the money to make 16-mm prints of the
films, which would have helped in the noncommercial/educational markets,
i.e., film societies, university film showings, etc. Ever since that time,
I have kept track of all screenings of Bresson's movies in New York City,
and there was never a full theatrical release for either AU HASARD BALTHAZAR
or MOUCHETTE, though the films were much written about, especially by Andrew
Sarris, Molly Haskell, and J. Hoberman. [...] THE DEVIL, PROBABLY is the
other Bresson film which never had an actual theatrical release in the
One piece of information which nobody seems to be interested in is the
connection between Bresson's most prolific period (1965-1971, when he made
four films in a row) and THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG. In 1965, after its
worldwide release, and the success of the soundtrack album worldwide, the
company which had produced UMBRELLAS, Parc Films, i.e., Mag Bodard,
contacted Bresson with the proposal to make a film. Bresson immediately
proposed LANCELOT DU LAC, but that would prove to be too expensive, though
it's important because the methodology of the script for LANCELOT (by that
point, he had condensed the script into very discrete fragmented scenes)
would prove to be the method of BALTHAZAR. (It's very different from the
scripts for DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST and A MAN ESCAPED and THE TRIAL OF
JOAN OF ARC, which have longer sequences.) It took him about a year to come
up with the script for BALTHAZAR, which was inspired by an anecdote found in
sostoevsky's THE IDIOT. (In talking about BALTHAZAR the other day with the
critic George Robinson, he [George] came up with the wonderful joke that
Bresson had proposed a movie with a lot of armor and horses, and budgetary
considerations meant that he wound up making a movie with a motorbike and a
I've tried to find someone interested in publishing a short article I've
written about the circumstances of the filming of BALTHAZAR, but no one is
interested. Instead, too much is written "mystifying" Bresson. Quite
frankly: he made movies, and these were not "non-commercial" movies, but
movies made under the commercial filmmaking system of France. The fact is:
AU HASARD BALTHAZAR turned out quite well, and was brought in strictly on
budget, and because it was so modestly budgeted, the release of the film in
Europe was enough to make a profit, and that prompted Mag Bodard to produce
MOUCHETTE, and the success of MOUCHETTE allowed for the production (also by
Mag Bodard) of UNE FEMME DOUCE.
For FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER, he was working with another company, and that
film was a French-Italian co-production, and there have been problems about
the clarity of the rights, as has happened to a number of European
co-productions at the time.
September 7, 2003
It's official: The Film Forum in New York will be screening
Au hasard Balthazar, as restored by Rialto, during the period October 17–30, 2003 [ web site ].
August 20, 2003
Our readers may find
this recent article
by Richard Hell (Village Voice) to be of some interest.
August 4, 2003
Rialto Pictures reports
that their newly restored Au Hasard Balthazar will be opening on October 17 at
New York's Film Forum. Other cities and opening dates are to be determined.
Keep an eye on Rialto's website for updates.
Mouchette will most likely be a spring 2004 release, but no exact date is
set at the present time. Robert-bresson.com fully expects corresponding
Criterion DVDs to emerge some time after these theatrical releases.
July 27, 2003
Anthology Film Archives (New York) reports:
"Anthology will present nine Bresson feature films and one documentary
August 22 through September 4.
All features will be presented in
excellent 35mm prints with English subtitles, with the exception of
Une femme douce (16mm, no subtitles). This series comes to us with
the invaluable assistance of the Cultural Service of the French
Embassy, NY; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris; New Yorker
Films; and James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario."
See also this page
by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.
Unless you have already done so, please
bookmark our top-level page: mastersofcinema.org (MoC).
The DVD Release Calendar on that page (still somewhat under construction) will be constantly updated to reflect
the release status of upcoming Bresson DVDs. More in-depth information will be
found here on the robert-bresson.com News page.
July 16, 2003
The MK2 Bresson DVDs previously scheduled for September (see our April 8 news item) have been
indefinitely postponed until 2004. Presumably, this will cause the corresponding Artificial Eye
releases to be delayed as well.
Also, New Yorker appears to be pushing their Bresson release date back, to December 23, 2003.
We plan to create a dedicated
DVD Release Calendar section to help you better keep track of the overall DVD situation as it evolves.
July 10, 2003
Artificial Eye (U.K.) informs us that they will be releasing
A Man Escaped, Lancelot du Lac, The Devil Probably, and L'Argent
on DVD in the near future. They are aiming to release Pickpocket as well,
but this title is not yet confirmed.
July 2, 2003
The Korean DVD distributor Spectrum has
released a Bresson DVD box set. The titles included in this "Volume I" are,
A Man Escaped, Lancelot du Lac, and The Devil Probably.
There are no English subtitles.
The screenplay for Le Proces de
Jeanne d'Arc has recently been published by Mercure, France.
It contains an introduction by Bresson and a piece by Florence Delay.
It is available from amazon.fr for approximately 25 Euros.
June 18, 2003
Anthology Film Archives (New York)
[ website ] reports that the details of the upcoming
Bresson restrospective are all but finalized.
Arranging a "complete" Bresson retrospective has
turned out to be somewhat difficult. Four Nights of a Dreamer
appears to have sunk back into the "rights-holders
obscurity" from whence it came; Mouchette and Au Hasard Balthazar
were removed from the programme at the last minute
so as to not interfere with the upcoming Rialto releases
(which promise to be spectacular, see our January 7 newsbrief).
Dates are not yet finalized, but the films to be shown are:
According to the Anthology Publicity Director, the majority of these
are fine-grade or "like new" subtitled prints direct from the
Ministère de la culture. Stay tuned for updates.
- Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
- Diary of a Country Priest
- A Man Escaped
- Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc
- Une Femme Douce
- Launcelot du Lac
- The Devil, Probably
Jon Mulvaney of Criterion reports that their
Diary of a Country Priest DVD should be released some time in
June 16, 2003
We recently received a letter from
Richard Peterson, Director of Programming
with the Smith Rafael Film Center:
"I thought I would just forward a slight correction on your news of May 8th.
I believe that Au hasard Balthazar was originally released in the United
States by New Line Cinema in the early days of that company. Same goes for
Mouchette. I think that New Line handled them both theatrically and
Thanks for the correction/clarification, Richard!
May 24, 2003
Further to our April 30 news item,
the scheduled streetdate
for New Yorker's DVD releases of A Man Escaped and L'Argent
is December 9th, 2003.
May 17, 2003
On July 25, at 7:30 pm, writer/director Paul Schrader will be
presenting Pickpocket at the Skirball Cultural Center,
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd. LA, CA 90048.
The Anthology Film Archives in New York City is mounting a Bresson
retrospective in August with subtitled(!) new 35 mm prints of a number
of his films, "direct from France." The details of the program are not yet set.
Anthology has promised to keep us posted.
May 8, 2003
Rialto Pictures reports that there is "a good chance" that
they will be theatrically releasing Au Hasard Balthazar this fall — they have promised to keep us posted.
This will be the first time
the film has ever been distributed theatrically in North America (apart from
April 30, 2003
New Yorker Video confirms that they plan to
release A Man Escaped and L'Argent on DVD later this year.
(Note also that they have earlier made reference to Lancelot du Lac, see
our November 21, 2002 newsbrief).
April 9, 2003
It was just called to our attention that
a Bresson Retrospective is currently underway at the Austrian Film Museum.
The schedule is found here.
We note that a class on Mouchette was held on
April 2, and that no less than seven documentaries are being screened.
These include Babette Mangolte's new documentary on the
models of Pickpocket. Other featured documentaries are
Interprètes de Bresson,
The Road to Bresson (also featuring Andrei Tarkovsky),
Inthronisation und Sturz,
Zum Beispiel Bresson,
L´Argent von Bresson and
Ni vu ni connu.
April 8, 2003
Mk2, France, informs us that they are
planning a DVD release of Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc.
This is in addition to their previously announced titles, Pickpocket and L'Argent.
The street date for all three titles is September 1, 2003.
We will bring you more details as they become available.
Our readers in Canada should note that Criterion's Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne DVD
is not sold there, as Criterion does not hold the distribution rights for this title in Canada. Attempts
to order the title via amazon.ca will thus fail, in spite of what the website may tell you.
April 2, 2003
The mk2 web site has an English page for their L'Argent catalogue listing,
Note that this does not refer to DVDs per se, but rather to 35 mm prints carried by mk2
for theatrical distribution.
We note that there is no mention of Pickpocket in their catalogue...
As for future DVD releases from mk2, we will monitor the situation closely
and keep you posted. Also refer to our March 18 newsbrief.
A recent interview with Paul Schrader about Bresson's Pickpocket may
be found in The Telegraph, January 25. Read the article
Note an interesting addition to our slowly expanding site;
translated into English exclusively for robert-bresson.com:
a selection of Bresson quotes taken from the French press.
Kimitoshi Sato of
Japan sent us the following gem: A book created for the
Robert Bresson Retrospective which took place during the 1999 Tokyo Film Festival.
The book is called Le Cinématographe de Robert Bresson, it is 18.3 cm X 25.7 cm, 152 pages,
all texts both in French and Japanese. No information on publisher; the
book was sold at the theatre strictly at the time of the Retrospective.
[ Cover Scan | Index (French) |
Preface (French) ]. To be added to our Books' Section shortly.
March 28, 2003
Joseph Cunneen's new book, Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film
(ISBN 0826414710) is slated for an April 15 release. You may now order/preorder it through your
favorite online bookseller. The book has 224 pages and 24 b/w photographs
[ cover scan ].
Mr. Cunneen [ bio ] has
kindly granted to robert-bresson.com an interview, which we
will bring you shortly. We will provide you with a book review as well.
James Quandt submitted the following information—a follow-up to
some of our earlier news items...:
From : James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario
To : Newsdesk, robert-bresson.com
Date : Fri, 28 Mar 2003 10:03:33 -0500
Subject : Various
In response to various comments posted to your newsdesk:
It is highly unlikely that Affaires Publiques (there is no article
Les as part of the title as it appears on the print, by the way) will be
included on any DVD for some time to come. The film was long thought lost,
something that Bresson did not regret; his response to its discovery by
the Cinémathèque française was not exactly joyous. His widow, Mylene
Bresson, does not wish the film to have wide circulation as she feels it
is unrepresentative of his work, and largely misunderstood (outside of the
context of its time and the situation of its making).
I have not seen the Criterion DVD of Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, but
when I organized the Bresson retrospective that toured North America, I
discovered that the elements for this film and for his other early work,
Les Anges du péché, were not in ideal condition. The print of Les
Dames was quite lovely but had a number of flaws from the elements
including speckling and some scratches. By the way, there is a growing
body of critical opinion that sees these two films as entirely continuous
in style and theme with Bresson's later work, rather than, as traditional
opinion has it, films in the tradition of French cinema of their era.
The Kino print of Diary of a Country Priest that is discussed is the
one I had made for the Bresson retrospective, derived from elements
recently restored by the CNC in Paris. The lustrous black-and-white is
superior to any other prints I have seen over the years. However, there
were some forceful objections to its quality from certain Bressonians who
argue that a more homogenous gris (grey) quality is what Bresson intended
during this period, and that the "punchy" quality of the contrast in this
print and that of Pickpocket betrays this intention.
Regards, James Quandt
We asked Kate Elmore, producer of Criterion's Les Dames DVD
to give us her opinion on the quality of the DVD and of the
underlying film elements. This is further to our March 6 newsbrief.
To : Trond Trondsen, robert-bresson.com
From : Kate Elmore, Criterion
Date : Wed, 19 Mar 2003 17:48:55 -0500
Subject : Les dames...
We too are disappointed with the condition of the film elements for
Bresson's Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne. I can assure you that our digital
transfer was done to the same exacting standards as any of our others, but
that the existing film elements are in unfortunate shape. What you see on
our disc is a an accurate, reproduction of the image as it survives in
duplicate elements. No amount of digital restoration could solve the
problems inherent in the material, and, as is our policy in such cases, we
refuse to overprocess the image and sound, removing what remains of the
character of the original film (grain, texture, depth), simply for the sake
of making a "cleaner" picture. Using a fairly light hand, we removed the
worst of the dirt, especially around the opticals and reel changes, but
there is very little we can do about the softness inherent in the surviving
dupes or the shifting (film weave) that commonly results from warping of the
reels. As for the sound, we did manage to improve it somewhat, but again,
the original sound elements have not been well preserved.
We certainly hope that other film elements, in finer condition, may be found
in the future, so that a full film restoration can be undertaken and the
picture saved. If nothing else, the flaws inherent in the elements should
remind us all of the perishable nature of the medium and of the importance
of restoration and preservation efforts. Digital recording is not enough.
The celluloid itself needs to be cared for and protected, and in this case,
it has not been kindly treated. If something better turns up, as happens
from time to time, we will certainly be proud to make it available. But for
now, we feel confident that we have made Les Dames look as good as it can,
given the state of the film.
We will bring you our own review of this Criterion DVD shortly—stay tuned.
March 18, 2003
Good news from France: mk2 has announced
a May DVD release of L'Argent and Pickpocket.
Whether these will have English subtitles or not is anybody's guess.
We do, however, know that Artificial Eye (U.K.) has a good
relationship with mk2, having produced English versions of their Truffaut
and Kieslowski discs in the past. Does this mean we'll see Artificial Eye Bresson DVDs
announced before the end of the year? Developing...
March 12, 2003
Home Vision has officially announced Flaherty's Man of Aran and
Louisiana Story as upcoming DVD releases. The DVDs, slated for a May release,
will contain several extras. We note that in 1952
Bresson cited both of these titles in his personal list of the top seven movies of all time:
The list is taken from "Reel Facts — The Movie Book of Records"
(Vintage Books, 1978). It is based on the response given by the director
while participating in the Cinematheque Belgique Survey of 1952.
- The Gold Rush (Chaplin)
- City Lights (Chaplin)
- Potemkin (Eisentein)
- Brief Encounter (Lean)
- The Bicycle Thief (De Sica)
- Man of Aran (Flaherty)
- Louisiana Story (Flaherty)
March 6, 2003
Criterion's DVD of Robert Bresson's Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne,
the first-ever English subtitled Bresson DVD, turns out to be a somewhat disappointing and sloppy release.
It is not up to Criterion's usual standards. A very preliminary technical assessment is
found here (dvdbeaver.com).
The screen captures are far from impressive. A discussion is developing
less than flattering review is found
We are somewhat surprised that Criterion didn't grab the opportunity to
include Bresson's 25 minute Les Affaires Publiques on
this particular disk — it would have been a logical companion feature.
Bill Forsyth did a Masterclass TV
programme (UK) on Au Hasard Balthazar circa 1990. Let us hope this
fascinating TV programme is included on the upcoming Criterion release of Au Hasard Balthazar (2004?).
January 23, 2003
A Man Escaped will be screened Tuesday, February 25, in the Dryden
Theatre at the George Eastman House International Museum of
Photography and Film, 900 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607, Telephone (585)
271-3361. Admission is $6, $5 for students, and $4 for members. This is part of
Breaking in and Bustin' Out: Caper and Jailbreak Classics series.
Raymund Schwager (Institute for Systematic Theology, University of
Innsbruck, Austria) is giving a talk on Mechanism and Freedom: On
Robert Bresson's movie Au Hasard Balthazar at the University of
Innsbruck's 2003 Colloquium on Violence and Religion, June 18-23
[ programme ].
January 12, 2003
The following is our report from yesterday's screening of
Diary of a Country Priest in West Hollywood.
Doug Cummings reporting:
The screening yesterday at the Sunset went very well. Kino's film
was a bit scratched, but had quite good contrast and detail it was
clearly a recent print. It was far better than Kino's VHS
(rereleased in 2001) may suggest, not only in its visual detail but
also in its subtitling the film had a new English translation
which was more accurate and nuanced. Kino told me in 2001 their VHS
was ported from their Interama video master (seen on the laserdisc, I
believe) and the clarity of the winter trees and the muddy roads on
film was a revelation. This screening was presented in conjunction
with Kino's 25th Anniversary Series, which has appeared at The Film
Society of Lincoln Center, Cornell University, and various other
venues to date.
In other news, Rialto Pictures tells us that they are
presently discussing the theatrical release dates for their restored
Au Hasard Balthazar and Mouchette (see our January 7 news item), but that
"hopefully at least one will come out either this spring or fall."
January 10, 2003
This and next weekend, Laemmle Theatres in West Hollywood will be screening
Diary of a Country Priest. Screenings will be held on January 11 and 12 at
Sunset as well as
on January 18 to 19 at the Monica.
See also this recent mention in the
We will bring you a review of this weekend's screening. Stay tuned.
January 7, 2003
Rialto Pictures (www.rialtopictures.com) has added Au Hasard Balthazar and Mouchette to their list of restoration projects. (It is noteworthy that Rialto's restored works have traditionally ended up on Criterion DVDs... There is hope!)
January 3, 2003
Amazon France (amazon.fr) lists Diary of a Country Priest
as being slated for a February 6 release on DVD in PAL Region 2. We tried to place an order,
but a message comes back stating that the title has been "cancelled." The amazon.fr
listing remains, however (as it has remained for several months now).
Let us take a closer look at the
DVD's cover [ cover scan ]. The cover proudly announces
that the film is "un film de Rene Clement." If this is indicative of the kind of respect Bresson's
titles will be given in the coming months and years, then we have reason to be seriously worried indeed.
December 21, 2002
Robert Bresson's Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
has been officially announced
for March. This constitutes the first-ever English subtitled Bresson DVD.
November 21, 2002
This news item appeared on Nostalghia.com today:
We have for several years been longing to see the works of
Robert Bresson released on DVD. Many of our readers are well aware of the fact that
Tarkovsky and Bresson were personal friends, and that Bresson was one of the
co-founders of the Institut International Andreï Tarkovski. We
recently approached New Yorker Films
(the main rights' holder in North America) asking
them about their plans in regards to releasing Bresson on DVD.
We received an understanding response from their President, Mr. Dan Talbot:
[...] Bresson is a world master and he should be more available through
DVD. We are relatively new in the field of DVD. So far we have put out
30 DVDs, and in 2003 we hope to put out roughly 20 new DVDs. Among them
we hope to put out two Bresson titles - A MAN ESCAPED and LANCELOT OF THE
LAKE - probably toward the end of 2003. Economics aside, the issue is
getting quality material from which to make masters for the DVD releases.
We've started this process. [...]
New Yorker has promised to keep us posted on the progress, so stay tuned!
We also recall in passing that Criterion has already mentioned
in a public forum a possible 2003 release of Diary of a Country Priest and/or Les Dames du Bois
In other recent correspondence with New Yorker Films, we have been informed that,
in a new development, they no longer distribute the Ozu titles.
We are currently working hard trying to find out exactly who is the new
rights' holder. Finally, New Yorker Films tells us that they
have L'Atalante, Shoah, The Boys of St. Vincent, and a re-release of
The Decalogue scheduled for 2003.
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