Notes on Cinematography – Robert Bresson (1975, Tr. 1977)
I admitted two weeks ago that I am a movie buff light. So it’s pretty obvious how my light movie buffness became awestruck, completely ineffable as a matter of fact, when I turned over the last page of Notes on Cinematography.
The Intermission before the Third Act
The Second Act of my Swan Opera has come to an end. So why don’t we take five, shall we?
We are leaving the Mansion of Litera(p)ture to have a quick smoke. We slip outside through the back door. The night is young, starless and chilly. On the stairs – a discarded book. We pick it up. There’s a crescent-shaped stain of the front cover and several pages suffer from dog ears. Upon seeing author’s name, we raise our eyebrows in brief disbelief, then squint our eyes out of suspenseful suspicion. Robert Bresson was a movie director, not a writer. But then again, how can we be sure. After all, the world is a permanent surprise, isn’t it?
I admitted two weeks ago that I am a movie buff light. So it’s pretty obvious how my light movie buffness became awestruck, completely ineffable as a matter of fact, when I turned over the last page of Notes on Cinematography. Or Notes on the Cinematograph, or Notes on the Cinematographer. Why three slightly alternate titles? I don’t know. And, frankly, I don’t care. Because no one should care about the title when they have the book of such firepower in front of them. And what a book this is, indeed!
Written in a vein of curt aphorisms, it presents Bresson’s philosophy of movie making. The book not only covers Frenchman’s thoughts and ideas about various aspects of cinematography (NOT cinema – Bresson clarifies and distinguishes the difference between these two terms – the former having rather specific meaning, far from the one commonly associated with it) such as music, models (again, Bresson’s own terminology here), automatism, truth and falsity of images, etc., but also illustrates, albeit very intuitively, how they all might have been formed. At least my imagination rocked really hard with mental images of Bresson implementing his own take on cinematography while orchestrating a movie set, shooting on location, or simply stooping in front of his desk over yet another entry in his notebook. All in all, it is truly a fast break read, ending with not one but many stupendous slam dunks of thought. Also, never have I ever called something “philosophy” with less doubt than Bresson’s Notes on Cinematography. If you love movies, it is a must, just like Hitchcock/Truffaut or Sculpting in Time by Andrei Tarkovsky.
That’s all I am willing to give you away. They are chiming for the Third act, anyway…