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Robert Bresson

Posted: November 4th, 2011, 8:39 am
by charliechaplinfan
Yesterday I watched A Man Escapes directed by Robert Bresson and it struck me how much I've enjoyed his style of movie making. Other movies I've seen by him are Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne, Dairy of a Country Priest, Pickpocket and Au Hasard Balthazar. He doesn't qualify as a New Wave director in my mind as he made his first film in 1945 but he has a very simplistic way of telling his stories, usually in black and white, resorting to the visuals to create the mood, his actors, for me seen to be minimalistic, developing the stories almost by what they don't say rather than what they do.

A Man Escapes is a great example of this, it's set in a Nazi prison were the men are kept seperate and not allowed to talk to one another during their short break out of their cell every day, having contact is a battle against the constant presence of the Nazi guards. The only contact they really get is through talking through the bars at the window to their nearest neighbours, despite the lack of conversation we get to find out quite a bit about some of the other men in the cells. The men communicate by coughs etc. Francoise needs to get out of prison and the whole film is about his quest, it moves along, slowly yet compellingly, using Mozart to great effect and a voice over narration. The result is that I felt more involved than in any other prison break story. It's not a film that is easy to predict, apart from the title A Man Escapes which did give away the fact that he gets away, which gave me some relief when watching it because his case seemed hopeless but the addition into his cell of Jost just as he gets sentenced to death, I was worried about Jost's fate as he was such a young man with a seemingly unformed set of opinions. The break itself seemed to take forever, in a good way, the obstacles were more than I would have thought. My only criticism is that I would have liked to have known what happened to the two men in real life. The end shot of the smoke rising above the railway bridge as the men steal away into the darkness was the perfect way to end the movie.

I remember having strong feelings when watching his other movies, Au Hasard Balthasar, I got myself quite tearful over that poor donkey. Pickpocket is one of the best crime dramas in terms of suspense I've ever seen and Diary of a Country Priest, simplicity, the fighting of prejudices and his stomach ailment, again it got me right in the eye with the emotions.

Bresson wasn't a very prolific director but I'd certainly search out more of his work.

Re: Robert Bresson

Posted: November 8th, 2011, 9:08 am
by ChiO
I'm with you on Bresson (#11 on my nominating petition for the Favorite Director poll).

It took awhile for me to get in sync with him, probably because THE DEVIL, PROBABLY was the first I watched, which in retrospective is not the best introductory film. A MAN ESCAPED is my favorite and, I think, the best intro to his work, perhaps because the protagonist survives rather than accepting death as Man's Fate.

If poor Balthazsar made you cry (me, too), MOUCHETTE will really get you.

Re: Robert Bresson

Posted: November 8th, 2011, 1:37 pm
by charliechaplinfan
Mouchette is one I have on my list, now I'm having second thoughts, at least I won't watch it whilst I'm here alone. I really liked A Man Escapes, not only because he survives but the title does give the viewer some relief from worry, I'd have been undone if Francoise wasn't the one who got out in the end. It did cross my mind that the guy who escaped might have been Jost alone.

Re: Robert Bresson

Posted: April 21st, 2012, 2:23 pm
by moira finnie
For those who are interested in the hypnotically paced, thought-provoking films of Robert Bresson, two are scheduled for TCM this weekend, including A Man Escaped, which earlier posters mentioned as exceptionally interesting. Diary of a Country Priest may take a certain patience, but it is haunting.

April 23rd (All times shown are ET)

2:00 AM
Diary of a Country Priest (1951)
A young priest taking over a parish tries to fulfill his duties even as he fights a mysterious stomach ailment.
Dir: Robert Bresson Cast: Claude Laydu , Nicole Maurey , Andre Guibert .
BW-115 mins, TV-14

I wrote about this very moving story here.

A Man Escaped (1956)
An activist is imprisoned by the Nazis, and devotes his waking hours to planning an elaborate escape.
Dir: Robert Bresson
BW-101 mins, TV-PG,

Re: Robert Bresson

Posted: April 22nd, 2012, 2:40 pm
by charliechaplinfan
Two very enjoyable movies, very different subjects, the pacing and timing is everything. That poor priest stayed with me for ages after viewing Diary of a Country Priest.

Re: Robert Bresson

Posted: May 7th, 2012, 6:56 pm
by moira finnie
I hadn't seen A Man Escaped since college and viewing it again today I found it more absorbing and deeply moving than I remembered. Bresson's movies are such intense feasts, especially since he pares away all the trivial and superficial that we enjoy in movies and reminds me that a great story only needs the sparest of elements to convey the universe within one solitary person. Most movies only hint at the person inside the shadow on the screen, but with his narrative skills, this director takes us truly inside another person's skin and soul.

I guess it's not for everyone, but I couldn't help thinking how shallow this makes many other prison break movies seem!

Re: Robert Bresson

Posted: May 8th, 2012, 5:08 am
by charliechaplinfan
I agree, A Man Escaped is a solitary film, very few actors in it, you live in that cell with him and feel every moment towards his escape.