PRINT April 2000

Sound of Silents

ROBERT BRESSON IS USUALLY THOUGHT OF AS AN INVENTOR OF FORMS —an auteur in the strongest possible sense, projecting an idiosyncratic vision of the world. His innovations, we are always reminded, are those of fragmentation and compression. He stresses “the essential,” stripping down an action through close-ups, elliptical cuts, and dead-quiet sound levels until it achieves a hypnotic intensity. A pair of hands, footsteps in a Métro station, a beer glass on a zinc-topped bar: Details are plucked out and laid end to end, sending us back to our world with a sharpened sensitivity. Now you really notice how often people lower their eyes or stalk through life with delicately slumped shoulders, a bit insolent in their studied unobtrusiveness.

Still, no artist invents forms out of nothing, and Bresson’s individuality has obscured the ways in which he enriched certain long-standing traditions of

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