Wednesday Editor’s Pick: Four Nights of A Dreamer (1971)

by on April 24, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Wed May 2 at 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]

 
Bresson’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s White Nights seemed to be everyone’s favorite rarity discovery when the retrospective screened at Film Forum earlier this year (perhaps, in part, because it is far more light-hearted than his usual ennui). And if you never made it out of that standby line BAM grants you a second chance. Kristin M. Jones recommends catching this projected, “screening in a new print that allows an appreciation of its symbolic use of color—updates the story with sensuality, absurdity and a complex vision of contemporary loneliness.”
 

Let Dave Kehr also assure you, since the images for this film – never made available on VHS or DVD – are of lamentable quality, for the Chicago Reader:

Robert Bresson’s 1971 film is an exploration of romantic love rendered in the precise, austere style of his better-known studies in spirit (Lancelot du lac, Une femme douce). In the secular turn Bresson reveals an unexpected sense of humor and worldly irony. The transformation of Paris at night into a dream landscape pulsing with electric mystery is reminiscent of Minnelli, although the economy of expression is clearly Bresson’s. A very beautiful and essential film.

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Thursday Editor’s Pick: The Devil, Probably (1977)

by on April 20, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Fri April 20 thru Sun April 22 at 2:00, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15 and Mon April 23 thru Thur April 26 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]
*Thurs April 26: intro and brief Q&A with Richard Hell at 6:50 show
**No 6:50 show on Tue April 24

 
The hottest ticket at Film Forum’s Bresson retrospective earlier this year now gets a new print and a one-week run, courtesy of The Film Desk and Olive Films. Punk rocker cinephile Richard Hell will introduce.
 

Hell proclaims, for Mojo:

It is by far the most punk movie ever made. It’s about a kid who rejects the idealism of his activist contemporaries — the movie is full of harrowing stock footage of the destruction of the world by humans via everything from mercury poisoning of the oceans to nuclear explosions — because he’s come to feel all is hopeless and no action’s possible. His only solace is sex, but it’s not enough. Of course, as always in Bresson the movie’s really about the succession of moments it presents, the sounds and images, but… There’s nothing to be said but to go see it.

 
You can read further excerpts from a 2002 Hell introduction of the film here.

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Thursday Editor’s Pick: Mouchette (1967)

by on April 12, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Thurs April 19 at 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]

 
If you missed out on Film Forum’s major retrospective earlier this year, Bresson makes it across the river to BAM.
 

When asked about Robert Bresson in an interview, Ingmar Bergman responded: “Oh, Mouchette! I loved it, I loved it!”
 
And if J. Hoberman can’t convince you, nothing can:

Bluntly put, to not get Bresson is to not get the idea of motion pictures—it’s to have missed that train the Lumiére brothers filmed arriving at Lyon station 110 years ago.
 
Mouchette, made eight years after Pickpocket, is less celestial and more grounded, based on a novel by Georges Bernanos. Bernanos is a Catholic writer, but in adapting his story of a wretched adolescent girl, Bresson evokes a world from which something—perhaps God—has withdrawn. “What will they become without me?” Mouchette’s mother asks the camera in a stark, pre-credit prologue.
 
The film’s final movement, following the heroine through her last morning, might be called “The Passion of Mouchette”—it ends on a note that is at once utterly inconsequential and irrevocably final. As always, Bresson signifies rather than dramatizes action. The filmmaker professed to hate theater, and yet in Mouchette, the world itself is a mystical stage. Like any genius, Bresson made rules in order to break them.

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Sunday Editor’s Pick: Pickpocket (1959)

by on April 11, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Sun April 15 at 2:00, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]

 

BAM keeps unfurling masterpieces in their Bresson retrospective, thru May 6.

 

Of her courtship with Jacques Demy, Agnès Varda tells Gerald Peary:

When I met Jacquot [Jacques Demy] in 1957, he’d seen Bresson’s Pickpocket three times. We went to see it four more times.”

 

A.O. Scott for the New York Times:

Bresson’s parable of crime and redemption is timeless, achieving a state of spiritual grace rarely seen, or even contemplated, in the secular medium of cinema.

 

Andrew O’Hehir for Salon:

Both an ingeniously choreographed crime film and a moral drama influenced by Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” “Pickpocket” marks the apotheosis of Bresson’s stripped-down style. There’s little or no psychological realism or conventional drama at work in Martin La Salle’s portrayal of a master thief who plies his trade at the Gare de Lyon and easily outwits the cops who seek to ensnare him. See it once to appreciate the spare elegance of the pickpocketing scenes, and then a second time to appreciate how subtly Bresson accomplishes the story of a man’s self-willed corruption, his liberation through imprisonment and his redemption through love, all in less than 80 minutes.

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Friday Editor’s Pick: A Man Escaped (1956)

by on April 7, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Fri April 13 at 2:00, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]

 
If you just couldn’t take Bressonian melancholy during the post-Christmas comedown never fear, the director’s first complete American retrospective. which started at Film Forum. is back in Brooklyn after touring the country. BAM will screen a one-week run of former rarity The Devil, Probably, which about everyone and their mother was sold out of this past January at Manhattan. But they kick off their rendition of “Bresson” with his masterful dabbling in genre and action.
 

David Fear for Time Out New York:

The French filmmaker’s 1956 tale of steel bars and iron wills boils a true-story prison break down to its bare necessities. “I’ve told it as it happened, unadorned,” claims the filmmaker in an introductory disclaimer, and that’s an unabashed understatement. Once WWII resistance fighter Fontaine decides he’s busting out of a Nazi hoosegow, the movie focuses, single-mindedly and laserlike, on every painstaking preparation for an exit strategy. Passing clandestine notes, stealthily chipping away at doors, braiding bits of mattress stuffing to make ropes; each detail is presented with minimal fuss while simultaneously milked for maximum suspense. Even the title dispenses with unnecessary frills: A man escaped. What more do you need to know?
 
Of course, anyone can stick to a rigorously steadfast, just-the-facts style or keep their nonprofessional cast from overemoting (or emoting at all). Only an artist can take these elements and, having escaped from the tyranny of Hollywood-ish excess, fashion them into a tale of genuine grace under pressure. That the closest thing to a melodramatic moral quandary—involving a cellmate who may be a snitch and is definitely a dead ringer for Dennis the Menace—doesn’t rock the aesthetic boat speaks volumes about Bresson’s commitment to achieving what would later be termed an “ecstatic truth” by peeling everything away. Sparseness can be rich beyond belief; the proof is now unspooling before your very eyes.

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Thursday Editor’s Pick: A Man Escaped (1956)

by on January 20, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Fri Jan 20 thru Thur Jan 26 at 1:00, 3:45, 5:30, 7:45, and 10:00 at Film Forum
*Mon Jan 23 showtimes: 1:00, 3:15, 5:30, 9:30

 
Cinephiles can rest their weary soles (and souls), as Film Forum’s daily offering of Bressonian masterpieces and rarities comes to an end with one-week run of his existential take on the prison escape flick.
 

David Fear for Time Out New York:

Blessed with a weeklong run at the end of Film Forum’s bliss-inducing Robert Bresson retrospective, the French filmmaker’s 1956 tale of steel bars and iron wills boils a true-story prison break down to its bare necessities. “I’ve told it as it happened, unadorned,” claims the filmmaker in an introductory disclaimer, and that’s an unabashed understatement. Once WWII resistance fighter Fontaine decides he’s busting out of a Nazi hoosegow, the movie focuses, single-mindedly and laserlike, on every painstaking preparation for an exit strategy. Passing clandestine notes, stealthily chipping away at doors, braiding bits of mattress stuffing to make ropes; each detail is presented with minimal fuss while simultaneously milked for maximum suspense. Even the title dispenses with unnecessary frills: A man escaped. What more do you need to know?
 
Of course, anyone can stick to a rigorously steadfast, just-the-facts style or keep their nonprofessional cast from overemoting (or emoting at all). Only an artist can take these elements and, having escaped from the tyranny of Hollywood-ish excess, fashion them into a tale of genuine grace under pressure. That the closest thing to a melodramatic moral quandary—involving a cellmate who may be a snitch and is definitely a dead ringer for Dennis the Menace—doesn’t rock the aesthetic boat speaks volumes about Bresson’s commitment to achieving what would later be termed an “ecstatic truth” by peeling everything away. Sparseness can be rich beyond belief; the proof is now unspooling before your very eyes.

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Wednesday Editor’s Pick: L’argent (1983)

by on January 11, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Tue Jan 17 at 1:00, 2:50, 4:40, 10:10; Wed Jan 18 at 1:00, 2:50, 4:40, 6:30, 8:20, 10:10; and Thu Jan 19 at 1:00, 2:50, 4:40 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]

 
Its no surprise Film Forum’s Robert Bresson series (Jan 6-26) is the hottest repertory ticket in town, as it is the first time a retrospective of the director has hit the states in 14 years. And never fear non-New Yorkers, a cross-country tour is already scheduled; see the full lineup here.
 
Jonathan Rosenbaum described Bresson’s last film as”a shocking and devastating work like few others;” while Kent Jones proclaims of L’Argent, “for my money, one of the great works of art of the second half of the 20th century.”
 
The man himself, in interview upon the film’s release:

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“The Trial of Joan of Arc” (1962) at Film Forum (Jan 10)

by on January 9, 2012Posted in: Essay

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Tuesday Editor’s Pick: The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962)

by on January 4, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Tue Jan 10 at 1:15, 2:40, 4:05, 5:30, 7:00 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]

 

Film Forum treats NYC to a complete Robert Bresson retrospective, Jan 6-19, followed by a one-week run of his metaphysical suspense film, A Man Escaped.

 

Made in between bona fide masterpieces Pickpocket and Au Hazard Balthazar, and long impossible to see, The Trial of Joan Arc has long been regarded as a failure, or Bresson’s weakest film, but critical opinion on it is beginning to change. Stay tuned for an Alt Screen feature on the film, coming soon.

 

Meanwhile, Melissa Anderson for the Village Voice:

Bresson’s 1962 film — the most underrated of the director’s 13 features (and, at 65 minutes, his shortest) — Tony Pipolo points out, “launched a decade devoted to female protagonists” (and the careers of Anne Wiazemsky and Dominique Sanda). By looking anew at The Trial of Joan of Arc, made in between the works widely considered Bresson’s supreme masterpieces (1959’s Pickpocket and 1966’s Au Hasard Balthazar), Delay, a 20-year-old university student at the time, emerges as one of the most perfect of the director’s “models”: a steadfast teenage saint whose stoic countenance is punctured once, at the film’s beginning, by a burst of tears.
 
Bresson rejected acting; he wanted his nonprofessional performers simply to be, part of his notion of film as a pure art form. The script for Joan of Arc adheres quite closely to the actual record of the trial and of the rehabilitation process 25 years later: Joan is interrogated and taken back to her cell repeatedly, the back-and-forth of the inquisition and the clang of Joan’s shackles providing the film’s rhythm. Delay, her limpid eyes frequently downcast, isn’t “unexpressive” but unsentimental; though austere, she is unwavering, resolute. In an interview with Pipolo, Delay, who would go on to write novels, narrate Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983), and be elected to the Académie Française in 2000, explains that she thought of Joan “as an intrepid individual with a mission to perform.” She gave her director what he wanted, but gives audiences more: a new way to access and appreciate history’s most remarkable adolescent visionary.

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