Neither God nor Master
Robert Bresson and Radical Politics
Publication Year: 2011
Situating Bresson in radical and aesthetic political contexts, from surrealism to situationism, Neither God nor Master shows how his early style was a model for social resistance. We then see how, after May 1968, his films were in fact a series of reflections on the failure of revolution in France—especially as “failure” is understood in relation to Bresson’s chosen literary precursors, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, and Russian revolutionary culture of the nineteenth century.
Restoring Bresson to the radical political culture from which he emerged—and to which he remained faithful—Price offers a major revision of the reputation of one of the most celebrated figures in the history of French film. In doing so, he raises larger philosophical questions about the efficacy of revolutionary practices and questions about interpretation and metaphysical tendencies of film historical research that have, until now, gone largely untested.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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In the summer of 1977, Robert Bresson appeared in a wide array ofFrench newspapers for inciting youths to suicide. Early in June, Giscard’sminister of culture and environment, Michel d’Ornano, announced that TheDevil Probably would be banned to those under eighteen. The administra-tion assumed that Bresson’s film promoted suicide as a logical response to...
1 Crime as a Form of Liberation: Modeling Revolt in Pickpocket and A Man Escaped
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Despite the religious orientation of Bresson criticism, the filmsthemselves are more concerned with crime than they are religion. Much ofBresson’s reputation, however, has been staked on the religious potential oftropes of the cell. Bresson’s criminals, it is often said, allegorize the preceptsof divine law. The space of the prison cell is understood less as a social space...
2 Word and Image, World and Nothingness: Logocentrism and Ironic Reversal in Procès de Jeanne d’Arc, Diary of a Country Priest, and Les Anges du péché
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If Surrealism provided Bresson the means for thinking of criminalityas a series of operations for the appropriation of the terms of punishmentfor the sake of both pleasure and autonomy, it was certainly not recognizedas such, or at least widely, in his own time. The dryness of Bresson’s religiousallusions—the way religious quotations hover over the most antisocial of all...
3 Man and Animal, Master and Servant: Au hasard Balthazar and Mouchette
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The question of interpretation that concerned us in chapter 2 isintensified in Bresson’s two films about animals, Au hasard Balthazar andMouchette. It is in these two films—made back-to-back in 1966 and 1967—that Bresson’s concern with language and domination is redirected towardThe distinction between man and animal has long been a central pre-...
4 The Aftermath of Revolt: Une femme douce and the Turn to Color
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Léger’s observation about Dostoevsky and Balzac could just as easilystand as a description of Bresson’s montage style, their progeny in the ageof film. Moreover, Léger’s comments suggest why it may not be altogethersurprising to see Bresson, whose laconic characters seem wholly antitheti-cal to Dostoevsky’s, turn directly to his work in 1969 with Une femme douce...
5 Disintegration: Lancelot du Lac; or, The Failure of Identification and Totality
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If color in Une femme douce becomes a way to depict and understandthe reconstitution of patriarchy in the aftermath of May ’68, in Lancelot duLac color traces a process of social disintegration. Bresson remains con-cerned in Lancelot du Lac with the problem of revolution in the aftermathof its perceived failure. But where Une femme douce imagines the despair...
6 The Agony of Ideas: The Devil Probably and Revolutionary Discourse
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Fassbinder offered this response to The Devil Probably (1977) atthe 1977 Berlin Film Festival, where he sat on the jury. Fassbinder threatenedto leave the jury unless his support for the film, which was entirely unappre-ciated by his colleagues, was made public. The cool reception of Bresson’sfilm in Berlin, and Fassbinder’s subsequent support for it, is not so surpris-...
7 The Last Gasp: L’Argent and the End of Socialism
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This passage comes from a sustained discussion about politics andwriting between Wiesel and his friend Mitterrand, president of France atthe end of his final term, onetime member of the Resistance, and lover ofliterature. Noting Mitterrand’s adoration of Tolstoy in a previous remark,Wiesel rehearses a major assumption of Russian literature, that Tolstoy and...
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This book has taken a long time to arrive, and in the course of it I have accu-mulated a lot of intellectual debt and a number of addresses. The projectbegan at New York University as my dissertation and has grown consider-ably since then. I am grateful to all of my teachers there, and to my com-mittee in particular: William G. Simon, Richard Allen, Robert Stam, Charles...
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Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2011