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Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Notes on the Cinematograph
by Robert Bresson, introduction by J.M.G Le Clézio, translated from the French by Jonathan Griffin
The French film director Robert Bresson was one of the great artists of the twentieth century and among the most radical, original, and radiant stylists of any time. He worked with nonprofessional actors—models, as he called them—and deployed a starkly limited but hypnotic array of sounds and images to produce such classic works as A Man Escaped, Pickpocket, Diary of a Country Priest, and Lancelot of the Lake. From the beginning to the end of his career, Bresson dedicated himself to making movies in which nothing is superfluous and everything is always at stake.
Notes on the Cinematograph distills the essence of Bresson’s theory and practice as a filmmaker and artist. He discusses the fundamental differences between theater and film; parses the deep grammar of silence, music, and noise; and affirms the mysterious power of the image to unlock the human soul. This book, indispensable for admirers of this great director and for students of the cinema, will also prove an inspiration, much like Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, for anyone who responds to the claims of the imagination at its most searching and rigorous.robert bresson, translated by jonathan griffin
The collection Bresson on Bresson: Interviews 1943-1983 and Bresson's own Notes on the Cinematograph are primers for the gradual understanding of Robert Bresson, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein...Notes on the Cinematograph is the ultimate refinement of Bresson's thought, a loosely grouped succession of aphorisms and Zen koans.
—J. Hoberman, The New York Times
If there were any director you might expect to write what is, in effect, a philosophical notebook on the art and science of film-making, it would be Bresson...This is…a collection that reaches beyond its subject matter. It actually is philosophy.
—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
Notes on the Cinematograph...feels like the rare beast: a manifesto of filmmaking one doesn't see much of nowadays. In it, Bresson's artistic philosophy is laid bare.
—Zak Salih, The Los Angeles Review of Books
An original and singular figure, Breton sought a truer form of narrative film...a welcome creative tool, both for people interested in making art and for those who just enjoy talking or thinking about it.
—Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, A.V. Club
Half-philosophy, half-poetry, Notes on the Cinematograph reads in places like The Art of War for filmmakers.
—John Semley, The A.V. Club
Bresson's films are many things. They are among the most maddeningly beautiful in all of cinema; each is like a wedge violently driven into the world. Bresson's cinema is a monument to an idea of art that knows no compromise.
—Michael Blum, The Brooklyn Rail
Bresson's Notes on the Cinematograph is a version of Flannery O'Connor's Prayer Journal for the cinephile. It's that concentrated, that profound.
—Glenn Kenny, RobertEgbert.com
The power of Bresson’s films lies in the fact that his purity and fastidiousness are at the same time an idea about life, about what Cocteau called ‘inner style,’ about the most serious way of being human.
Short, aphoristic fragments that guide Bresson’s filmmaking. Scribbed down as ‘notes to self,’ reading them in whole is astonishing & inspiring, a totality of a brilliant filmmaker.
—Mike Kitchell, HTMLGiant