Volume 8, Issue 4 / April 2004

Focus on Robert Bresson 2

In this issue

As promised, Offscreen returns with a second follow-up issue wholly dedicated to the recently deceased French film master, Robert Bresson (December 18, 1999). My intention in this second issue was to vary the analytical approach to Bresson from that taken in last month’s issue. I hope to have achieved this by spreading the field to include review essays on a DVD (Diary of a Country Priest), an important early Bresson reference source (Jane Sloan’s Robert Bresson: A Guide to Sources and References), and a slightly unorthodox approach to a very unorthodox work of auto-film criticism, Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer; and a two-pronged statistical analysis of Bresson’s Pickpocket. About thirty years ago in a piece entitled “From a Written Film History to a Visual Film History” (Cinema Journal 14/2, Winter 1974-75) Vlada Petric suggested that shot-by-shot analysis be part of an organised program of analytical documentation of silent cinema. Not many people have taken Petric up on the suggestion, partly, I would imagine, because of the laborious nature of the task. With the advent of video and DVD such a program may no longer be necessary from a preservationist standpoint, but a shot-by-shot breakdown, when augmented by textual analysis, can provide a wealth of insight into a questions of film structure, narration, style, and meaning. In the least, a well-done statistical breakdown provides a handy skeletal template of a film: a “visual image on paper”. (ed. Donato Totaro)

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