When his young wife commits suicide, leaving no explanation for her act, an introspective pawnbroker looks back on their life together and tries to understand why she had to kill herself. –filmsdefrance.com
Often described as a “painter” of films, French director Robert Bresson was one of cinema’s greatest anomalies. He directed only 13 films over the course of 40 years, but these films were in a category all their own, minimalist works that tended towards radical (and sometimes controversial) reinterpretations of such classical sources as Diderot, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. An expert manipulator of narrative incident, Bresson focused on seemingly incidental details of the stories he told and used amateur actors (whom he called ‘models’) lacking any trace of theatricality, creating searching meditations on the quality of transcendence, spirituality, and alienation. Of the artistic influences inherent in his work – perhaps most apparent in his belief that the cinema is a fusion of music and painting, not the theatre and photography – Bresson once said “Art is not a luxury, but a vital necessity.”
The year of Bresson’s birth has often been subject to debate; his biographer, Philippe… read more
The last film Bresson made in the most productive decade of his career was the first he shot in colour. It was also the first of consecutive adaptations he made from short stories by Dostoyevsky. The beautiful Dominique Sanda plays the young wife who throws herself from the balcony of her apartment, leaving her husband to contemplate what could have made her commit such a final act. Bold, devastating and despairing..
A quality of Robert Bresson’s ascetic style is that it renders him capable of expressing a multiplicity of emotions at once; his films, though unique in their own regard, each capture an entrancing, yet endearing mood. Read More: http://aestheticsofthemind.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/une-femme-douce-a-gentle-woman/
The viewer can't project anything without first the stylistic expression — something to project upon. The image expresses. In its ascetic style, there is no unilateral interpretation; there is a concomitance of expressed emotion. You at once feel for the woman, the husband, and yourself.
then we have comparable perspectives of thought. i agree that the film proper must be first created for there to be a viewer's interpretation of it, as well as the simultaneity of emotions expressed/received (if, indeed, you believe in their concomitant nature); i was hoping that you did not believe strictly that variable 'x' (the film) was intended to evoke and only evoke variable 'y' (your subjective response). you have noted otherwise, though, so, that is fortunate. it is often the case that critics exude a hubris in their interpretations of films, as if there could be no other; which, indeed, is humorous because most of their "understanding" is actually derived from the critical historicity of the film, precluding, in majority, original thought. i am glad that you are not one of these. how did you go about viewing this film? i had a difficult time acquiring it in the states.
But thank you for noting that I don't presume, like most critics, to know the sole exact interpretation of a film. I always make a point to emphasize the 'experiencing' of a film. In other words, all my reviews are based on how the film affected my personal state of mind. There will even be a difference between me: happy and with energy, and me: angry and tired, so how could I possibly expect others to interpret a film the exact same way. Now, when it comes to form, I believe there is the possibility of an exactly replicating response from the viewer. That response is of aesthetic experience, and it is a higher-level response that is outside of critical thinking faculties — outside of interpretation. Phenomenologically speaking, an image may evoke the exact same (felt) experience between all beholders of its art. This connective feature is what makes it art. However, they may — likely will — interpret their experiences differently thereafter.
it is awkward! i blame it on the algorithm i developed. usually, i just input a string of key words (no less than 3 syllables each and derived from a dominant semiotic phenomenological, or psychoanalytic theory) into the equation and out comes what i hope to be some cogent, rationalist product. but, alas, it is not always the case. you are right, though. your thought is fun to read. when you speak of phenomenological, do you invoke more a husserlian, merleau-pontian, or contemporary/naturalized phenomenology? or, do you speak to some amalgam of the three?
husserlian. But, in regards to art, Huxley, Jean Mitry, and Rudolf Arnheim would be most applicable. State of perception — how form is appropriated by the mind — is the topic. Art being the subject that may mold each individual mind into the same phenomenological state, thereby each perceiving it in an exactly similar manner. This is rare, but possible, and what I believe connects humans with art with humans.
a husserlian! that is fantastic. i just recently read through the ideen. i appreciate the mathematician's logic; his methodology is a stones throw from empiricism and i love it.** i also read casebier's monograph on phenomenology and film not long ago, which focussed primarily on incorporating husserl's phenomenology into interpreting the film experience. the transcendent approach worked to an extent, but most of the failures within the text came from casebier's lack of insight.** i am more ideologically straddled between merleau-ponty (sobchack/marks/baker) and a naturalized phenomenology, which derives most of its knowledge from the efforts of cognitive/visual neuroscience to understand the filmic experience. it is exciting work. i also enjoy the efforts of the pure cognitivists -- grodal, bordwell, etc. they are all too much fun to choose just one!** you should submit an abstract to this coming film-philosophy conference in london; they are searching for film and phenomenology topics. the uk would be a pleasant environment to continue this discussion.
That casebier piece sounds interesting; I'll have to check it out. I have some degree of appreciation for cognitivism, and I think it's important to consider the physicality of substance, but I think it can only go so far. Neuroscience and cognitivism can tell us that something is happening, but cannot tell us exactly what. We have thoughts and feelings in relation to films; this is shown in synaptical function; synapses don't exactly describe the thoughts and feelings, they merely illustrate the existence of impulses. So I see this kind of approach only helpful as a rough guide. For example, experimenting with mind altering substances and studying the cognitive changes is one thing, but in order to actually get something out of the experiment, you would also have to study changes in thoughts, feelings, actions, etc.. You'd need to put the cognitive changes into context. That conference sounds interesting, and it's unfortunate it's not a month earlier; I'll be in the UK in August, but in Toronto for grad school in September.
A look at the second, revised edition of James Quandt’s crucial anthology, Robert Bresson.
The complete retrospective will carry on touring North America through May.
Two similar and mysterious moments from Au hasard Balthazar and Une femme douce. What’s going on here?
Introducing a new series of essays on the “tightly-packed excess” of Robert Bresson.
A look at the best posters for the films of Robert Bresson, to coincide with the Film Forum retrospective.