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Bresson’s “Four Nights of A Dreamer” Needs a DVD Release

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Robert Bresson’s incandescent masterpiece is still not available on DVD.

OK, enough about genre films and comic book movies. This brief post is really just a placeholder; a reminder that one of the most beautiful and sensuous films of all time still, still, still isn’t available on DVD. There’s a streaming link on Amazon, of reasonable quality, but I’m sorry – that’s simply not good enough. A Criterion DVD is definitely in order, especially since nearly every other Bresson film in the director’s long career is readily available in either a US or European version, with English subtitles. But it seems unlikely that this will happen.

As writer Michael Brooke describes the film’s enigmatic plot on IMDb, “The ‘dreamer’ is Jacques, a young painter, who by chance runs into Marthe as she’s contemplating suicide on the Pont-Neuf in Paris. They talk, and agree to see each other again the next night. Gradually, he discovers that her lover promised to meet her on the bridge that night, and he failed to turn up. Over the next couple of nights, Jacques falls in love with her – but on the fourth night her original lover returns . . .” – and what happens then, I’ll leave for you to discover.

The Amazon streaming version gives only a hint of the film’s stunning pictorial splendor, and it’s a shame to see such a beautiful film held hostage by what I can only presume are rights problems. A Japanese Blu-ray of the film, with Japanese subtitles only, emerged about a year ago, but almost immediately sold out. What makes the whole thing even weirder is that Luchino Visconti’s adaptation of the same story, White Nights by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is easily available in an excellent transfer.

But such are the vicissitudes of fate – here’s a film that I saw in 35mm format when it first came out, and never forgot, but once again, as with so many glorious masterpieces of the cinema, now you see it, now you can’t. In the meantime, here’s a superb interview with Bresson on his last film, L’Argent – enjoy this, and perhaps in the future we’ll get to see Four Nights of A Dreamer in its proper form. I first wrote about this film in 2012 – nothing has changed since then.

Just another film that needs – desperately – a DVD release – right now.

Robert Bresson’s Four Nights of a Dreamer (Quatre nuits d’un rêveur)

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Click here, or on the image above, for a clip from Four Nights of A Dreamer.

Robert Bresson spent his life making gorgeous, transcendent films, but Four Nights of A Dreamer (1971) may be his single most stunningly beautiful work.

As M.C. Zenner notes in Senses of Cinema, “To look at, Quatre Nuits might have been released yesterday. Little in its matter and nothing in its manner has dated: so authentic is the reek of its present and so close to us does its ambience still seem, as a testament to the fidelity with which Bresson pointed, rolled, and selected. ‘Retouch some real with some real,’ commands the only repeated note in his Notes on the Cinematographer.

So true is this, that it’s quite hard to believe, as we view, in the antiquity of the generation to which Jacques and Marthe belong. The children of the ‘children of Marx and Coca Cola,’ raised on the video-games that continue its myths, may find it just as hard. They are well within living memory, the last two summers of that affluent, easy time on whose dusky embankments conspiracy-theories enjoyed such efflorescence, and to which the subsequent oil-crisis, inflation, mass -unemployment, the terrorist explosion, all form such an impassable barrier.

The landscaped garden of gestarbeiten, growth, Coca-Cola label designs, the ongoing circus of Viet-Nam, top-forty charts, and low Italian sports-car curves, has dried and died and sunk under new layers — of discarded key-cards, condoms, needles, or lives. It’s as dead as some of its exemplars and premature victims. And if its ghosts can still walk, they can’t bite.”

Sadly, this gorgeous film isn’t available on DVD legally, and circulates only in a terrible bootleg; it’s a shame, because nearly all of Bresson’s work, from his earliest films to his last, has now had a DVD release, but somehow, Four Nights has slipped through the cracks. Let’s hope this remarkable, ineffably romantic film soon gets a legitimate release.

About the Author

Headshot of 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 thirty books and more than 100 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. All comments by Dixon on this blog are his own opinions.

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Wheeler Winston Dixon has been quoted by Fast Company, The New Yorker, The New York Times, the BBC, CNN, The Christian Science Monitor, US News and World Report, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, The PBS Newshour, USA Today and other national media outlets on digital cinema, film and related topics - see the UNL newsroom at http://news.unl.edu/news-releases/1/ for more details.

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