Robert Bresson gesticulating with his left arm
Stories & Ideas

Wed 25 Jan 2023

Model and Soul: The uncompromising cinema of Robert Bresson

Film Melbourne Cinémathèque Retrospective
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Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society

Notes for the 1–15 March 2023 Melbourne Cinémathèque program.

Although Robert Bresson (1901–99) made only 13 features over 40 years, there is perhaps no other body of work in cinema history more marked by a director’s personality, sensibility or style. Bresson started as a painter and photographer and began making feature films in the early 1940s. Sometimes drawing on his own experiences, his work is also deeply informed by art, religious belief and literature. Although he has adapted the works of such monumental literary figures as Georges Bernanos, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, what is most notable about Bresson is his cinematic style. His unadorned and always beautiful images interplay with a very singular working method: he would ask his actors (he preferred the term “models”) to repeat a scene again and again until all semblance of a performance was stripped away.

Bresson was resolute in his cinematic aesthetic, refusing sentimentality, employing precise editing and rigorous framing. This yielded a powerfully pure filmic experience and has often (most famously by Paul Schrader) been labelled a “transcendental style”. One of the most significant filmmakers of the 20th century, Bresson’s influence can still be felt today in the work of filmmakers like Michael Haneke, Bruno Dumont and the Dardenne brothers. This season includes many of Bresson’s key works from his first, formative feature, Les anges du péché (1943), to a number of the films on which his lasting reputation stands: Diary of a Country Priest (1951), Pickpocket (1959) and Au hasard Balthazar (1966).


Model and Soul: The uncompromising cinema of Robert Bresson

Une Femme Douce (1969) –Wed 1 Mar, 7pm
Mouchette (1967) – Wed 1 Mar, 8.45pm
Les Anges du Peche (1943) – Wed 8 Mar, 7pm
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) – Wed 8 Mar, 8.45pm
Pickpocket (1959) – Wed 15 Mar, 7pm
Diary of a Country Priest (1951) – Wed 15 Mar, 8.30pm

Person laying on sand, with their face reflected in a puddle

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

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