PRINT November 2012


Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Le Menu de maigre (The Fast-Day Menu), 1731, oil on copper, 13 x 16 1/8".

BEFORE THE MASSACRE OF INNOCENTS in the final twenty minutes of Robert Bresson’s L’Argent, the director’s last and most drastic film, Bresson pauses his tautly vectored tale of exploitation and revenge to fasten his camera on a coffeepot nestled in a warming pan sitting alongside a café bowl that holds only a mote of light. This tabletop still life, lasting just a few seconds but granted eloquent implication through Bresson’s rapt close-up, signifies far more than mere calm before the slaughter. Marguerite Duras once commented that “Bresson’s filmic immensity is contained as much in a single one of his images as in the entirety of all of his images,” a truth nowhere more evident than in this nature morte, whose quietude, muted palette, and homely subject matter—fawn pot with chipped lid, squat metal basin, and empty bowl—recall the domestic still lifes of Chardin. Much

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