Robert Bresson

Robert Bresson

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Au Hasard Balthazar Review


Essential
You won't read about Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar in any art history book. You won't go to a museum to see his work on display or study his theory about actors as models. Unless you go looking for cinematic art of the caliber of Bresson's reflection of man's nature through the story of a donkey and his seven owners, no one will force you to watch Balthazar, in hopes of enriching your culture and appreciation of art. Unfortunately, it's likely that Balthazar is as lost on today's audience as the saintly donkey that bears man's burdens on his back only to be beaten, neglected and, finally, rejected.

Granted, the story of a donkey Christ figure is laughably pretentious. Except in Bresson's hands, the heavy metaphor isn't the point of the film, but rather its driving force. There's no mystery in the donkey Balthazar's role in the film. Early on he is baptized, called a saint, dons a crown of flowers, an allegorical crown of thorns, and is bound by the coarse bridles of man's burdens, be it the harness at a winery or carting bags of smuggled goods. While many films hide their metaphors under convoluted plots and characterizations, Balthazar wears its symbolism on its sleeve, which is also seen in the film's other characters. There is no time spent wondering about the role or motives of the young girl whose innocence is violently lost but remains in love. She is just that and nothing more; just as her prideful father or the town drunk. The depth of Bresson's film isn't in the archetypal characters, but how they interact with each other and the world. We don't relate to any of the characters' archetypes, especially the donkey, but we can sympathize with what they stand for, as they each represent an extreme of human experience. At some point in time, we have been one of these characters in some regard.

Continue reading: Au Hasard Balthazar Review

A Man Escaped Review


Excellent
A Man Escaped succeeds simply as the most tingly, tension-filled prison escape caper you'll ever see, but given that the prison in question is Nazi sadist Klaus Barbie's holding pen for condemned French resistance fighters, the story, which is based on true events, becomes a good vs. evil parable for the ages.

Lieutenant Fontaine (François Leterrier) is no coward. As the story begins, he's attempting to hurl himself from the car carrying him into the prison, which is located in Lyon, France. But rather than simply shoot him when he succeeds in briefly getting away, his Nazi captors pistol-whip him and deliver him to the prison alive, where they hope to pump him for information.

Continue reading: A Man Escaped Review

Pickpocket Review


Excellent
The dilemma of the thief who's good at what he does and is thusly trapped in a dead-end career by a sense of professionalism is a crime fiction trope as old as the hills. It's also one that Robert Bresson seemingly sets out to explore in 1959's Pickpocket, a film (supposedly inspired by Samuel Fuller's noir Pickup on South Street) about a thief who believes he shouldn't be held accountable for doing what he does. Most films would turn this into a cat-and-mouse tale between the brilliant but amoral thief and the equally driven cop. But this is Bresson, he of Diary of a Country Priest and the long-suffering antisocial protagonist, ultimately concerned more with Dostoyevsky than Fuller.

The setup is non-existent, the backstory meaningless, as we are simply presented with the thief, Michel (Martin LaSalle), a gloomy young Parisian with no purpose in life. Even though his mother is slowly dying, he can't bring himself to even visit her, leaving caretaking duties to a kindly neighbor, Jeanne (the striking Marika Green). After the police let Michel go, he continues his minor crimes, lifting wallets in the Metro and thinking it absurd that there are laws which would stop him from doing so. Later, he meets up with a veteran pickpocket (Kassagi, who also served as the film's pickpocketing consultant) who shows him some finer moves and makes Michel part of a slick three-man operation: one distracts the victim, the second lifts the wallet and passes it off to the third.

Continue reading: Pickpocket Review

L'Argent Review


Good
The 1993 film Twenty Bucks tracked a $20 bill through the hands of a variety of travelers and a series of small adventures.

Robert Bresson's final film, L'Argent, follows a similar path, at least for a while. Only this time the bill is French, counterfeit, and destined to bring nothing good to those who encounter it.

Continue reading: L'Argent Review

Diary Of A Country Priest Review


Good
Ingmar Bergman didn't direct Diary of a Country Priest, but he may as well have. The bleakest of the bleak, this film follows the titular country priest (Claude Laydu) as he works in a remote French village spreading the Good Word to the locals. The problem is they pretty much want nothing to do with him. Shunned by the townspeople and fearful that he isn't doing God's work properly, the priest is also so sickly he can eat nothing but hard bread that has soaked in wine, and he has little to do but spend the days in his freezing cabin, alone. Such is the content of the priest's diary, though a few encounters with the living promise to stir up some excitement.

Our priest is not only wracked with physical illness, he worries endlessly about his acceptance in the village, about God, about everything. His brow is constantly furrowed, and for good reason -- the stand-offish treatment he receives is killing him, as director Robert Bresson presents a hopeless message that says all things will stay the same. One man can't change society, but society can certainly do a number on the man.

Continue reading: Diary Of A Country Priest Review

A Man Escaped Review


Excellent
A Man Escaped succeeds simply as the most tingly, tension-filled prison escape caper you'll ever see, but given that the prison in question is Nazi sadist Klaus Barbie's holding pen for condemned French resistance fighters, the story, which is based on true events, becomes a good vs. evil parable for the ages.

Lieutenant Fontaine (François Leterrier) is no coward. As the story begins, he's attempting to hurl himself from the car carrying him into the prison, which is located in Lyon, France. But rather than simply shoot him when he succeeds in briefly getting away, his Nazi captors pistol-whip him and deliver him to the prison alive, where they hope to pump him for information.

Continue reading: A Man Escaped Review

Robert Bresson

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Robert Bresson Movies

A Man Escaped Movie Review

A Man Escaped Movie Review

A Man Escaped succeeds simply as the most tingly, tension-filled prison escape caper you'll ever...

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A Man Escaped Movie Review

A Man Escaped Movie Review

A Man Escaped succeeds simply as the most tingly, tension-filled prison escape caper you'll ever...

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