Bresson masterpieces a film festival feature

Ten movies by celebrated French filmmaker Robert Bresson will be shown at this year's Shanghai International Film Festival.

French filmmaker Robert Bresson

In addition to the works of Greek film master Theo Angelopoulos, 10 movies by celebrated French filmmaker Robert Bresson will be shown at this year’s Shanghai International Film Festival, which will be held from June 15 to 24.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Bresson’s death.

Most of his movies have been digitally restored and officials from the festival’s organizing committee said that they will be part of its “Tribute to Film Masters” program.

Born in 1901, Bresson showed a strong interest in painting and photography in his childhood. He spent around 18 months in a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II and the experience inspired one of his famous works “A Man Escaped.” He made only 13 feature-length movies and one short film in a career which spanned 50 years.

Bresson used non-professional actors for many roles. Their acting is more natural and close to life and his movies boast a distinctive minimalistic style.

The director kept a low profile in his life. He declined lots of interviews. In spite of that, his movies are highly acclaimed by filmmakers around the world who include Andrei Tarkovsky, Louis Malle and Andre Bazin.

Bazin, a French-Swiss director and film critic, spoke highly of Bresson’s contribution to the art of cinema and commented that “Bresson is the French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music.”

The 10 movies to be shown in Shanghai include “A Man Escaped,” “Pickpocket,” “A Gentle Woman,” “Four Nights of a Dreamer,” “Lancelot of the Lake,” “Money,” “Diary of a Country Priest,” “The Trial of Joan of Arc,” “Balthazar” and “Mouchette.”

“A Man Escaped” was Bresson’s first film to use non-professional actors. Based on a true event, the film is focused on a French soldier’s escape from a Nazi prison. With impressive close-up shots to depict the character’s delicate emotional changes, the film won Bresson the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1957.

It took Bresson three months to write the script for “Pickpocket” (1959), which was inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” The film was nominated for the 10th Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear award.

The 1969 work “A Gentle Woman” was Bresson’s first color film. Adapted from Dostoyevsky’s short novel “A Gentle Creature,” the film explores the cruelty of marriage as a young beautiful woman commits suicide. It was also the acting debut of French actress Dominique Sanda, who received the Best Actress award at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival for her role in the film “The Inheritance.”

“Lancelot of the Lake” is Bresson’s 1974 fantasy drama movie based on the legend of King Arthur. With documentary-style shots and stunning cinematography, it was a brand new interpretation of the Lancelot and Guinevere love story. The film took the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.

Movie buffs will also have a chance to watch the 1983 film “Money,” the director’s last film. Inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s novel “The Forged Coupon,” it tells of a tragedy that starts from a forged 500-franc note. The film won Bresson another Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1983.

“A Man Escaped” is Bresson’s first film to use non-professional actors.

The 1969 work “A Gentle Woman” is Bresson’s first color film.

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