Robert Bresson

Author: Keith Reader

Lacanian discourse has a complex and multiplies determined relationship with Catholicism, and Robert Bresson has the reputation of being the cinema's greatest Catholic director. Few Catholic artists, however, have found the institutional life of 'their' Church a congenial or inspirational topic, and its declining importance in Bresson's later work is not of itself particularly surprising. Pascal's wager on the existence of God has what contemporary linguistics might call a performative effect, for it is only thanks to the wager that God's existence becomes certain and available to the believer. Bresson's first film, Affaires publiques, is in many ways as unBressonian a work as could be imagined. Bresson from Journal onwards works to all intents and purposes outside genre, with the exception of those parts of Pickpocket and the inserts in Le Diable probablement that are close to the documentary. In 1947, Bresson went to Rome to work on a screenplay of the life of St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, which was never to be filmed. Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé, released in 1956, was and remains Bresson's most commercially successful and critically best-received film, though curiously for a very long time it was unavailable in Britain. Bresson's next two films, his first in colour, are also his first true adaptations from Dostoevsky. Bresson's final film, shot in the summer of 1982 and released in 1983, brought to an end the longest gap in his work since that separating Journal from Les Dames, more than thirty years before.

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