Day 86: Letting Go of Bresson

Letting Go of Bresson

This project keeps throwing curve balls. I think I’m going to do one thing one day and then out comes another curve ball.

Tonight’s was born out of needing to move beyond Bresson Week, which has now officially expired after fourteen mixed up days of eating, sleeping and breathing Bresson’s mixed up world: 1950-1967.

It was meant to be seven days. It was going to end with Diary of a Country Priest, but then I had a nagging thought, which was that I should find a way to view Mouchette. The number of times it appeared on individual director’s and critic’s lists niggled me. It was important. If I’m going to spend this amount of time living in Robert Bresson’s brain, then I’ve got to watch Mouchette. So, I found someone with a copy and watched it. And I’m so thankful I did, because it is an important step in the development of where Bresson’s head was between 1962 and1967 as opposed to 1950:

He was moving away from words.

I’ve been trying to get as much of the important information I’ve taken in through my viewing of six Bresson films – out of my brain and onto (so to speak) paper – so I can move on and not lose the information that provides me with whatever understanding I have of those films. Without thinking about the content of my mind, trying to break it into themes, my collection of images and words is an unintelligible puzzle of information without analysis.

I’ve spent four hours spewing thoughts out of my brain and into my fingertips, as words on a page – as fast as I could. I have to. I need to move on. I have to move on.

I am so glad I spent two weeks on Bresson. If Fellini or Kurosawa have this much depth to their films, I will be surprised. If Godard does, I’ll be doubly surprised. I think I will leave Godard to a week when I am so confused, but thoroughly immersed in European filmmaking of the 1950s and 1960s, that my brain can accept anything.

It’s also a complete surprise to me that 2001: A Space Odyssey and Au Hasard Balthazar and Mouchette could have anything in common. But they do. They’re the result of filmmakers who have reduced the things at hand that most enable them to tell the stories they want to tell. I’ve now read a lot about what happened between 1964 and 1968 to enable Kubrick to arrive at 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’ve now read a lot about how he worked on a Napoleon project before abandoning it. Of how A Clockwork Orange was developed and made.

What’s amazing for me in twelve weeks of amazing realizations, is:

  • Seeing Kubrick moving away from words and strip 2001: A Space Odyssey of explanations and justifications.
  • Seeing Bresson embrace words and then move away from them.
  • Seeing Bergman reject the words he relied on – often those in the liturgy of a church service – in so many films, paring it back, and then embrace them again.

I wondered if Pauline Kael wrote anything about Mouchette. I went to the New Yorker website and typed in Mouchette and came up with nothing resembling a review, by anyone. But up came some references to the word in some articles about Pauline Kael. Well, what an important keystroke. That Enter provided me with two interesting articles about the circumstances surrounding her writings and where her mind was, what she wanted to achieve, what she did achieve, and what she left behind.

Very relevant to the entire enterprise I’m embarked on.