I have decided to finally watch these fine gentlemen but I have no idea what to start with.
To put it bluntly, I don’t like a lot of the things I have read about Bunuel, regarding ‘plot.’ I generally do not enjoy films that are random, also comedies, I hate. That is just what I have read about him, which is not a lot.
I don’t really know anything about Bresson.
So, which film is the
1. Most violent, I am generally more prone to stay focused if I know someone is going to be sadistically murdered, if the I’m not feeling it.
Well as far as Bunuel goes I would start with his early stufespeacially the silents, which is what I started with(Un Chien Andualou, :
Age d’or). hose two are the more surreal of his films. If you want to go for the least random of his films, try watching Viridiana and That Obscure Object of Desire. I think his best films are The Exterminating Angel and The Milky Way.
As far as Bresson goes, I haven’t seen much. I really enjoyed A Man Escaped(if you can find it anywhere) and Au Hasard Balthazar. Pickpocket had some great moments, but I think suffered from it’s lack of good actors..
I don’t know if you’ll be a big Bresson fan, but try it out. I’d recommend Au Hasard Balthazar, it’s one of his more representative works, or A Man Escaped, it’s probably his most simply enjoyable as it is filled this wonderful tenseness (if that’s a word).
As far Bunuel… I just saw Diary of a Chambermaid, and it was very good. I think that film should have a wider audience.
I’d start with Bunuel’s Belle de jour.
Bresson preferred not to use professional actors in his films, and instead wanted “models” who were instructed to be minimally expressive. It takes some getting used to.
How about the phantom of liberty?
I know why he didn’t use professional actors and it worked very well in his other films like A Man Escaped and Balthazar, but I thinnk it just didn’t really work well in Pickpocket.
Bunuel is easily assimilated.
Bresson is another story. “A Man Escaped” is my personal favorite, closely followed by “Le Diable Probablement” and “Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne.”
“Pickpocket” and “Au Hasard Balthazar” are likewise wonderful.
Bresson begins as an artist with a religious vocation, but ends as an athiest. Sexually he’s polymorphous perverse. He liked strapping young men, and willowy girls, but like Proust was also crazy about lesbians.
For Bunuel, i would recommend starting with Belle de Jour, L’Age d’Or, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (or Phantom of Liberty which has a similar approach, and is very funny at times).
For Bresson: A Man Escaped, certainly an ideal starter. Then Mouchette, or Balthazar, which has a big following, though i was less taken with it than most.
Answering the question on violence, well, neither director is exactly renowned for big shoot em ups, macho machine guns, action and mutilations, Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie comes to mind with some elegant and witty shootings
Thanks David for the info on Bresson’s sexual leanings, which i must admit i hadn’t paid much attention to!
For Bunuel, I recommend starting with “Belle de Jour,” which is one of his most interesting pictures, and the gorgeous Catherine Deneuve would somehow keep your attention even you don’t like it.(from one of my friend’s experience…)
For Bresson, I recommend “A Man Escaped” and “Pickpocket.” But I want to mention that watch Bresson’s films is not a easy job at first time; if you don’t like it, just try to watch it again and maybe you would have different thinking.
I think A Man Escaped is ideally suited to Bresson’s style and his most accessible, as the concentration on details, the importance of small sounds, work a treat; it engages and has suspense that even a non-Bressonian can experience and appreciate
Bresson was a gigolo in his youth, Kenji. “Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne” is an apologia pro vita sua.
Ah, i learn something new every day. I must admit i’ve not read a bio of Bresson (his style doesn’t particularly appeal to me, and this may be partly due to my ignorance), just his quite prim and proper Notes on a Cinematographer. I suppose this adds further meaning to the importance of redemption? – and on to Schrader. Oh well i have read Schrader’s transcendental trio, perhaps my memory is becoming a sieve
I think it’s an interesting thread because Bunuel had an amazing sense of humor and a sly smile in everything he did, and Bresson, in his movies, seems to be one of the most humorless film-makers ever.
Bresson’s style pretty much eliminates all the fun and joy out of movies. But, his movies, tend to cut pretty deep – deeper than Bunuel’s – so if you’re into something that’ll leave your soul scarred, then you’ll probably like Bresson. …Bunuel is more like an older brother telling you what a clitoris is and how your teachers don’t know anything and that mom has a dildo in her top dresser drawer and how God isn’t real.
I would say Simon of the Desert has some things in common with Bresson’s movies.
Maybe double-feature that shit up: watch Simon of the Desert and, I dunno, Diary of a Country Priest.
Personally: I’m very hit and miss with Bresson. Movies like Mouchette and Pickpocket made me cry my eyes out, while Diary of a Country Priest didn’t leave a scratch on me… I have trouble empathizing with people like his character, so I felt really distanced.
I love – fucking love – Bunuel. I’d say start with the movies from his French period, because they’re the easiest to get into and enjoy (for me), with the exception of maybe The Phantom of Liberty, since it is made up of vignettes there’s not really a lot of tension to carry you through the movie.
Two years ago Anne Wiazemski wrote a memoir of her experience of “acting” for Bresson in “Au Hasard Balthazar.” I have an article about it in a forthcoming issue of “Film Comment.”
Long story short: Bresson was a world-class Dirty Old man.
Really? well, doesn’t sound like that will please his many fans! The article sounds enticing.
Ah, i’ve now found on the net a bit about what she’s said, mixed feelings, including “an immense film-maker…but i would never confide my daughter to him”
I never knew any of this about Bresson. I just thought he liked slinky girls, like me. That’s pretty interesting stuff.
Watch “Mouchette” by Bresson.
Anne Wiazemsky’s memoir, “Jeune Fille,” is a beautifully written book, both in terms of being a coming-of-age memoir and as a record of working with Bresson. Alas, it hasn’t been translated, but for anyone who can read French, I highly recommend it. I don’t know what they excerpted in Film Comment, though I will look it up. But I think, with all due respect, the ‘dirty old man’ label is a bit sweeping, and oversimplifying. He did have an intense—very intense—director/actess relationship with the teenage Wiazemsky, but physically it didn’t go beyond caresses. Psychologically, it was what a modern therapist would classify no doubt as unhealthy: he wanted to dominate her, to own her mentally and emotionally, to mold her into an avatar of himself for the sake of his film: not because he wanted to sleep with a pretty teenager. Which is “worse,” I leave to you to decide. But it’s far more complex than simply being horny for a young girl. Film history is filled with stories of director/actress relationships that have something in common with this one, in which the actress functions both as muse and as sublimated self for the director. Artists can be less than pleasant people! For a great film on this very topic, the artist and the muse and the deepening psychological complications that develop between them, see Rivette’s “La Belle Noiseuse.”
I can’t speak to the other references to Bresson’s sexuality, but if someone were to say it was complex, I wouldn’t be shocked; as his works suggest, he was a complex man. It’s true that in “Mouchette” (whose story derives from a Bernanos novella), he does indeed sexualize the young girl a bit more than is comfortable; but that too, I think, could be defended on artistic grounds. We’re meant to squirm a bit in watching that film.
As to Proust and lesbians, there too things are a lot more complex. Anybody interested ought to read Elizabeth Ladenson’s study, “Proust’s Lesbianism.” Proust was homosexual, but his narrator is not; he projects homosexuality onto other characters, including some women, and as a result, lesbianism in his novel is quite a complicated and fascinating topic.
David E, my apologies if I sound overly contentious here. Just wanted to disagree with, or maybe just add some shading to, some of your points.
Yeah, I think it’s difficult, and a little unjust, to reduce Bresson to sexual quirk or identity, even if it is accurate. (And actors are not always founts of truth, even great ones like Wiazemsky.) Would you like the only info in your biography to be who you liked to sleep with? It feels superficial to me, this queering of anyone and everyone. I understand you’re not saying Bresson is queer, exactly. I’m gay myself, so I understand that sexuality in general (particularly showing that there is no “normal”) is a part of queer identity, but there is much art, and many artists, who cannot and should not be reduced to that. We shouldn’t need that constant validation. Even if one’s aim is to critique the paradigm of heterosexual values, one must be as serious as that paradigm; one must be able to be equally interested in non-sexual life.
I think if people are interested to write a biography of you sex life, then you did something right. It’s pretty much the only thing we all experience, so, it’s really the most relatable thing about a person.
Anyone who wants to write a biography about who I like to sleep with is welcome, no matter how superficial it is.
But it shouldn’t be used to automatically explain someone’s art — that’s what’s superficial. Or rather, what can be superficial when speaking of a director as austere and as — what’s the word — ascetic maybe, as Bresson. Just because we might want to, as you say, “relate” everything back to that. Of course every man has a penis, but not every artist thinks primarily with his.
That’s not what I was saying, I hope I’m not interpreted as saying sex explains art, not in the least. I just think, how can I explain this… that sex is a very important part of life and art, and Bresson’s views on life, art, and sex would all fascinate me, as would what others have to say about him on each subject. I could care less if he was a dirty old man, or had had an extremely complex sexuality, or whatever, but I’m not going to say it’s uniteresting to hear about it.
The clear choice for Bunuel for you is Los Olvidados.
Getting back to the original question, it seems like you are looking for a violent film, unless I’m misreading you. Bresson’s most violent film is probably Lancelot du Lac, an Arthurian action film that isn’t really shot like a typical action film. However, any of his films is an excellent place to begin – not in terns of violence; he didn’t make violent films for the most part. If you want to get to know these two directors, I’d suggest tossing some preconceptions out the window. Bunuel’s sense of comedy is very dark and twisted, not light hearted. The Exterminating Angel is his best film — don’t waste time watching others to figure out if you like him or not; if you like Angel, you will like most Bunuel; if you don’t, you probably won’t. Los Olvidados is a violent film, but not readily available.
Not getting into matters of Bunuel as regards either “best”, or “perfect introduction”, I’d just like to cast a vote for “Diary Of a Chambermaid”, which is often overlooked in discussions of his work, and as scathing a piece of critcism as he ever committed to celuloid. The compositions and photography are magnificient, as well, and Jeanne Moreau is at her best.
Moreover, Christopher, the narrative is entirely linear with little to no dirgressoins, (that I remember) along more overtly surrealist lines.
That Obscure Object of Desire, likewise, is very worth checking out and quintessetially Bunuelian in approach to its theme.
I’d have say that, for me, outside of one or two segments Phantom Of Liberty is the weakest film of his final stage, and rarely hits harder or deeper than an average fart joke. Pretty cover on the DVD, but any other film of his from the 60’s and 70’s is better by far.
Joey: Yours may be my favorite summation of Bunuel I have ever read. I will definitely be stealing it to entice friends to watch his films.
My piece in “Film Comment” will quote a few sentences from Wiazemsky’s book but no translation of complete passages is being planned to my knowledge. it would be nice if it were translated into english. But potential readership is sadly small.
Proust was gay and his narrator in “A la recherche” is . . .slippery. Everyone in the book is shown to have had a ssame-sex relationship of one sort or another, except the narrator. That character “desires” a lesbian. But that bit of stage-managing arose out of the fact that Proust was a Lesbian-hag — a very rare and special sub-set of gay men who love to hang with lesbians. I was very much in love with such a man a great many years ago. No idea of what’s become of him (if he still can be counted among the living) but it was wild fun while it lasted.
I hope this link still works
It’s Bresson talking about “Pickpocket” — his most flagrantly homoerotic film. His answer to the question of whether he knew any actual pickpockets is most telling.
As I think about it more I think violent was not the right word. I think angry drama would be better. But, never the less, I think I will start with “Exterminating Angel” “Mouchette” and “Pickpocket.” “Los Olvidados” sounds great, I love “City of God” (they sound similar?) but I’m not in the mood to pay 50 bucks for a DvD from a director who I have seen nothing by.