Bresson's final film (1983) plays at the Film Forum from Jan. 17th-19th. It was based on Tolstoy's story "The Forged Coupon." One of the greatest works of art of the 20th Century, it contains all of Michael Haneke and Lars Von Trier in it's 90-minute running time.
Still from L'Argent
The Robert Bresson Retrospective is at the Film Forum right now. But it is going to other venues in the US and Canada as well: The Bresson retrospective opens this week at Film Forum in New York; Jan. 19 at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, Calif.; Jan. 20 at the Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge, Mass.; Jan. 21 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago; Jan. 31 at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.; Feb. 9 at the TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto; March 1 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; March 3 at the Cleveland Cinematheque and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; March 6 at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y.; March 9 at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville; April 4 at the Pacific Cinémathèque in Vancouver, Canada; April 13 at BAM in Brooklyn, N.Y.; May 1 at Northwest Film Forum in Seattle; and May 10 at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles. (Further venues and dates may follow.)
Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir gives a wonderful take on Bresson and at IndieWire, two illustrious critics, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Kent Jones, talk about Bresson and Godard. Rosenbaum’s great essay on Bresson: “The Last Filmmaker”
[By now it was late. The three stars were dimpling the sky. The baby raccoon was crying for its milk (I’d taken in an orphan the week before). But Jeremy and I weren’t finished yet discussing the movies we’d just watched.]
A D: You had a rather serious reaction to this one, Jeremy. Were you crying afterward?
Jeremy: Yes. Crying because I realized how much of my life I had wasted watching movies. What George Lucas did for his own franchise with the prequels, Malick did for all of cinema with The Tree of Life.
Some of us have been discussing long takes in movies, and John mentioned that he’d like seeing a list of films that consist primarily of the beautiful things. So here is a start at such a list. (And here is another one, which like this list embeds many YouTube clips, such as the magnificent opening shot Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958), the homage Robert Altman pays it in The Player (1992), and many others—including some overlap.)
But first: What’s the value in the long take?
Robert Altman and a happy Shelley Duvall before she met Kubrick
In March 2002 I woke up one morning in a trailer in the south of France, near the city of Carpentras. I worked on a fully organic farm (nothing mechanical, horse-drawn tills). There were no entertainment devices, save a transistor radio that picked up a plethora of European and Russian stations at night before evaporating during the first hour of sunlight. Though glad of the break from the tyranny of media, I knew it was still Oscar night in Los Angeles and I switched on the BBC to hear if someone Robert Altman’s Gosford Park or Todd Field’s In the Bedroom had beaten Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind for the grand prize. They didn’t.
Lars has made some very good movies in his time. Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville are all examples of exciting, provocative cinema. And now comes this–thing.
I’m very mixed about this motion picture. Not torn up, not oozing, like after Eyes Wide Shut. There are some beautiful images in this film, the black and white prologue showing an erect penis going into a vagina has to be one of the most gorgeous shots of the sex act I’ve ever seen. The unnamed couple, Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, then spend the next hour of the movie talking out their grief (mainly hers) after their young son fell out a window and died while they were in the throes of sex during the prologue. The film goes to color and it becomes a weird incarnation of therapist and patient (Dafoe plays an actual therapist). This interplay continues even as the couple goes to a cabin in the woods, their “Eden.” After a few days there, Gainsbourg says she is cured, but Dafoe does not believe her and continues trying to help her breathe, “Five, four, three…”
At times a David Lynchesque soundtrack comes on signaling something weird is going to happen. (Having just seen Inland Empire and being a fan of Blue Velvet, this touch seemed off-putting, as did Gainsbourg’s request to have Dafoe hit her during sex–another obvious borrowing from Blue Velvet.) The weird happenings are somewhat interesting–a deer running with a dead foetus stuck to its behind, a fox that is eating itself and then speaks English to a seemingly reserved Dafoe. He is the only one having these visions (if they are visions). Then, in the attic of the cabin, Dafoe finds Gainsbourg’s notes for a thesis (called Gynocide) she had been writing that doesn’t come to fruition, (film is fuzzy concerning whether it is finished). Arcane pictures, woodcuts in the manner of Dürer, and three never before heard of constellations in the sky called the Three Beggars–a deer, a fox and a crow (don’t worry the crow is coming).