Notes on the Cinematographer: The Films of Robert Bresson

Over the past five years, Northwest Film Forum has hosted filmmakers from all over the country and the world, and when pressed to name their influences, almost every one of them cited Robert Bresson, the filmmaker known for his deeply naturalistic style (typically involving nonprofessional actors) and his classic treatise on style and concision “Notes on the Cinematographer.” NWFF pays tribute to the master with a 10-day festival featuring a wealth of Bresson delights. Some highlights of the series: The Trial of Joan of Arc (May 3): Keeping with the style of Bresson’s mature films, 1962’s The Trial of Joan of Arc uses nonprofessional actors—aka regular people—this time to dramatize the trial and rehabilitation of the woman who would be Saint Joan. Having crafted an extremely spare and restrained film, Bresson bristled at comparisons with The Passion of Joan of Arc, mocking the “grotesque buffooneries” in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film. Lancelot of the Lake (May 8): Demanding a purposeful lack of emotion from his actors, Bresson’s 1974 film presents Arthurian legend devoid of fantasy, offering instead an unglamorously bloody portrait of the Middle Ages. Four Nights of a Dreamer (May 9): Bresson’s 1971 drama is loosely based on the Dostoevsky story “White Nights” and concerns the fleeting but life-altering affair between a young painter and a woman in love with another man. “It is shockingly beautiful,” writes the New York Times, describing it as “a movie about the condition of being in love.” Unavailable on DVD, so if you want to see it, don’t miss this screening.

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