Bailey on Bresson

Call it notes from a cinematographer on Notes on the Cinematographer: for the latest post to his blog at the American Society of Cinematographers website, award-winning director of photography John Bailey has written a lengthy entry on that guiding light of cinematic purity Robert Bresson and his 1975 manifesto on minimalism. Inspired by a recent screening of Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest at New York’s Film Forum, Bailey pays tribute to this most philosophical and precise of filmmakers; as he eloquently puts it, Bresson’s films “redefine the very essence of cinema for every generation that gets mired down or lost in the persiflage of mere technical innovation,” they are “stripped bare, reductive, proving time and again that a film is (as he says) nothing more than a visual dialogue between the camera and an expressive human face.” That’s not the only quotable dictum from the director, and Bailey reminds us of this fact by digging into Notes on the Cinematographer and extracting a litany of choice quotes, including “A whole made of good images can be detestable,” “The soundtrack invented silence,” and “Hide the ideas, but so that people find them. The most important will be the most hidden.” Bailey has even embedded a clip from Pickpocket in his post, as evidence that “the physical, specific, restrained imagery that Bresson calls for fairly jumps off the screen even in the flurry of his camera movements.”

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