Because you do not have to imitate, like painters, sculptors, novelists, the appearance of persons and objects (machines do that for you), your creation or invention confines itself to the ties that you knot between the various bits of reality caught. There is also the choice of the bits. Your flair decides.
Robert Bresson is for me an example of a real and genuine filmmaker, said Andrei Tarkovsky of the film director who he considered one of cinema’s poets, He obeys only certain higher, objective laws of Art…Bresson is the only person who remained himself and survived all the pressures brought by fame. Martin Scorsese too shares an admiration for the director and describes him as one of cinema’s greatest artists. Through his approach and philosophy on the art of cinema, Robert Bresson established the importance of the filmmaker’s style and his/her awareness of cinema’s unique artistic language.
Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen, Bresson declared in Notes on Cinematography. Journey through the filmmaking world of one of the greatest film directors with Filmmaker Profile: Robert Bresson, presented by A-BitterSweet-Life.
A rare and revealing visit with the elusive master filmmaker, Without a Trace (Ni vu, ni connu) by the French series Cinéastes de notre temps presents an hour long interview with Robert Bresson.
Regarded by some of cinema’s beloved directors—Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky just to name a few—as the one to exemplify film as art, Bresson discusses a wide range of topics at his country home while taking a break from shooting Au hasard Balthazar. He describes in-depth his approach to filmmaking while sharing the inspiration behind his films and his thoughts on the state of the then contemporary cinema.
In this 1960 Cinépanorama interview with Robert Bresson, the master French film director addresses several key qualities of film and filmmaking.
The heart of Robert Bresson’s films is the revelation of cinema as art. In his works, we find a simplification of film elements and a resistance to the aesthetics of popular movies. The filmmaker’s style is one directed at experience. Bresson states, I’d rather people feel a film before understanding it. The power of a film rests in the emotional experience it stirs within the engaged audience, and it is the experience of the film that generates the meaning and truthfulness of the work. True cinema is a cinema of feeling.
Jean-Luc Godard famously said, Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished because this film is really the world in an hour and a half. In this excerpt from a 1966 French television broadcast with an introduction by Godard, the master film director Robert Bresson speaks about this film, Au Hasard Balthazar, and his theories on filmmaking.
Robert Bresson touches on the importance of mystery in a film. A trap many filmmakers fall into is the focus on “telling” versus “storytelling.” It is the use of film’s unique language and subtext that materializes cinema’s golden rule of “Show, Don’t Tell.”
Since life itself is mysterious, it is through mystery that a filmmaker allows his or her film to better engage the audience since the filmmaker allows the audience to participate in the storytelling, letting the viewer’s imagination and emotions take part in the film. All timeless films enable the viewer to participate in the creation of the work.
An exceptional window to the great French film director at work, this short video documents Robert Bresson during the filming of Mouchette. Unfortunately, there is a lack of behind the scenes video footage—or documentaries for that matter—on the filmmaker. However, that scarcity makes this look into Bresson’s filmmaking world that much more precious.
Watch Robert Bresson direct and search for that so necessary moment he treasures, while interviews with the director himself and the actors of Mouchette heighten the experience of getting a unique look at a profound filmmaker at work.
In a 1983 interview for L’Argent, Robert Bresson affirms that, despite the feeling of precise calculation in his films, I don’t know what’s ahead of me. Not at all. I don’t want to know what I’ll be doing the next day. I want spontaneity. The declaration reflects his own words on his filmmaking technique: I don’t think much of technique, or making technique a part of things. If you find a new way to catch life, nature, this could change details, but not the whole. I don’t think so much of what I do when I work, but I try to feel something, to see without explaining, to catch it as near as I can—that’s all.
Bresson fascinates as a filmmaker through his understanding of film as art. For him, film does not blend the different devices of other art forms but is in of itself its own form governed by its own laws. This understanding offers the filmmaker an open approach to filmmaking, one that directs itself to the unique language of film.
Art can not exist with surprise, declares Robert Bresson. Explore the importance of knowing the translation of the film from paper to screen, directing with the awareness of the edit, and more.
On Filmmaking and Style
From Welles and Godard to Tarkovsky and Bresson, On Filmmaking and Style shares a collection of insight from filmmakers who emphasize an essential quality of film, the filmmaker’s style. Vision, imagination, and an awareness of cinema’s audio-visual language are at the heart of the filmmaker’s style, proving that the greatest cinematic tool lies within the filmmaker him/herself.
Justine Kurland Photography
Sublimate your ego as much as you can. When you’re in college, you have a captive audience. Your professor is getting paid to read your writing and your fellow classmates are paying to read your writing. Once you graduate, you will be faced with the hard reality that nobody gives a shit. Steven Pressfield said, “It’s not that people are mean or cruel, they’re just busy.” You have to understand that it’s not about your ego; it’s about what you can do for the culture at large.
In all creative work, there is a balance between what you want to give the world and what the world needs: if you’re lucky, your work is in the middle. Because of that, I believe that every job has a service element to it. If you want to make creativity your job, you have to think about what your creativity is in service of. Think less about how you can be a genius and more about the scenius. What can you contribute?
I want to make movies, beautiful movies. I’ve pursued that goal for more than 50 years. Close to 60 years now. But I don’t think I’ve yet fully grasped what a movie is…I would like everyone to savor the beauty of cinema. What I am aiming for—rather, hoping for—is to make a wonderful, beautiful movie. I want to convey in a natural fashion what I think through the movie and have people around the world appreciate it. A movie projected on a screen allows people all over the world to share in the lives of the movie’s characters. Sharing their suffering and sadness helps people understand each other. That is a special role that movies play. I think that’s the best thing about movies. It’s through the beauty of a movie that this can be accomplished.
There is nothing that says more about its creator than the work itself. Taking his own words to heart, one can see that Akira Kurosawa was truly a filmmaking artist. With over 30 feature films that range from samurai and noir to crime and drama, Kurosawa shows a mastery over the process, a mastery that occurs with a combination of talent and being able to see beyond the means at hand. His skill and ability to attune himself to the experience of making a film is highlighted in the wonderful and essential 80 minute documentary A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Films.
The documentary explores in-depth Akira Kurosawa’s approach to filmmaking. Divided into 10 chapters, the viewer journeys through the many stages of filmmaking—from “Cinematic Material” to “Scripts,” “Storyboards,” “Shooting a Movie,” and “Lighting,” to “Art Direction,” “Costumes,” “Editing,” “Music,” and “Directing”—as Kurosawa discusses the insight he has gathered during his career. An idea for a film, he believed, was like a plant that forms naturally. He also placed much attention to his collaborators, listening to them while allowing them to see edits of the film in production in order to encourage their spirits.
All that Kurosawa experienced was to lead him closer to his ideal of film, a realization of a “beautiful movie” founded in pure cinema, in which themes and messages were subordinate to the specific and artistic qualities of cinema. Dive into the depths of filmmaking with A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Films, a masterclass in the art of cinema from one of its greatest artists.
Akira Kurosawa possessed a masterful awareness of the filmmaking process, and those working close to him considered editing to be among his greatest talents. The renowned director even declared that he would shoot a film simply to edit, because for him editing was the foundation of a film and the most creative and interesting part of the process. The following words on editing and Phil Baumhardt’s Profiles in Editing: Akira Kurosawa exemplify the filmmaker’s profound understanding of “the invisible art” while the latter closely studies Kurosawa’s editing style and techniques in Seven Samurai.
Film editing involves putting on the finishing touches. More than this, it is a process of breathing life into the work.
The most important requirement for editing is objectivity. No matter how much difficulty you had in obtaining a particular shot, the audience will never know. If it is not interesting, it simply isn’t interesting. You may have been full of enthusiasm during the filming of a particular shot, but if that enthusiasm doesn’t show on the screen, you must be objective enough to cut it.
No matter how much work the director, the assistant director, the cameraman or the lightning techicians put into a film, the audience never knows. What is necessary is to show them something that is complete and has no excess. When you are shooting, of course, you film only what you believe is necessary. But very often you realize only after having shot it that you didn’t need it after all. You don’t need what you don’t need. Yet human nature wants to place value on things in direct proportion to the amount of labor that went into making them. In film editing, this natural inclination is the most dangerous of all attitudes. The art of the cinema has been called an art of time, but time used to no purpose cannot be called anything but wasted time.
The most difficult thing is to raise the level of the audience’s appreciation of film. That’s a tremendous thing to pull off. It’s easy to lower it and that’s what has happened. Movie theaters are playing only the awful stuff, and audiences today are apt to actually believe that that’s cinema. So it’s necessary to raise their awareness of what cinema really is. And educating people in that regard is an enormously difficult and challenging task.
Explore the life and works of Akira Kurosawa with the Akira Kurosawa Digital Archive:
The archive, put together by Kurosawa’s estate and Ryukoku University Digital Archives Research Center, is an amazing digital collection of over twenty thousand pages of Kurosawa’s screenplays, photos, storyboards, drawings, notes, newspaper clippings, personal scribblings and other materials. Among the high quality scans you can find unfilmed screenplays, screenplay drafts that were later revised, production memos and notes, continuity drawings, and much much more. While most of it is in Japanese, there are also some English documents, and of course plenty of pictures to check out.
Cinema is not a way to continue dreaming. Nor is it an art through which we try to mirror reality as it is, or to deform it and reflect a grotesque image. For me, cinema is simply an original way to create a new universe, a fascinating world that we show to others so they can discover all its hidden wonders.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s touch on cinema is ever-present as filmmakers from Lars von Trier to Nuri Bilge Ceylan confess his great impact on the way they see filmmaking. During the end of his life, he battled cancer and completed his seventh and final film, The Sacrifice. Fortunately, to add to the completion of the film, filmmaker Michal Leszczylowski took 50 hours of The Sacrifice's behind the scenes footage and excerpts from interviews, Tarkovsky's timeless book Sculpting in Time, and more in order to create the 100+ minute documentary Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky offers the world a glimpse to Andrei Tarkovsky’s filmmaking style. It intimately follows the filmmaker as he carefully directs another tour-de-force of cinematic storytelling. An emotional journey into the vision, personality, and style of the monumental film director, Leszczylowski’s documentary is an essential work for filmmakers and especially for admirers of Andrei Tarkovsky.