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Robert Bresson: “Art Cannot Exist Without Surprise”

Here’s a rare interview with director Robert Bresson for French television on the making of his last film, L’Argent (Money, 1983).

Bresson discusses his unique manner of working — no sets, all real locations, no professional actors, making up a deatiled storyboard and then essentially throwing it away, having no idea from one to day to the next where he’ll be shooting, or even why, and embracing the element of chance and spontaneity in all his films — with candor and a certain brusqueness that is probably a result of age, his general contempt for the publicity process, and a sense that time is running out.

As the interviewer notes in his opening comments, even when the film was screened at Cannes, Bresson consented to a press conference that lasted only a few minutes, before walking out; earlier in his career, in an interview on his masterful film Pickpocket, Bresson seems much more relaxed and less combative. But now, in the early 1980s, he sees the values of cinema rapidly shifting towards cookie cutter entertainment of an utterly predictacle nature, and he isn’t pleased by the prospect, as he makes perfectly clear.

This is fascinating viewing, and a rare look at someone who is a genuine artist of the cinema, who made his films entirely according to his own idiosyncratic rules, which is what makes them so timeless, and also, as Bresson points out, so perishable.

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About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of numerous books and more than 70 articles on film and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu.

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