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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

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. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu. Visit him at his website wheelerwinstondixon.com.

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