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Notes on the Cinematographer

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,823 ratings  ·  125 reviews
Robert Bresson makes some quite radical distinctions between what he terms "cinematography" and something quite different: "cinema"—which is for him nothing but an attempt to photograph theater and use it for the screen.

Director of The Trial of Joan of Arc, Pickpocket, A Prisoner Escapes, Diary of a Country Priest, Money, and many other classic films, Robert Bresson is,
Paperback, 136 pages
Published May 1st 1997 by Green Integer (first published January 1st 1975)
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Richard Bresson, Robert. Notes on the Cinematograph. Trans. Jonathan Griffin. New York: NYRB. Also available as an e-book.

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Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: eeyore without tail
Recommended to Mariel by: an actor will seek revenge
Robert Bresson Notes on the Cinematographer is my philosophy book or self-help book for putting things together in what I feel, or need, to be real in stories, images, moments. I'm sure it's one hell of a book for creative people. I don't make things so much as try to get by and live better by living elsewhere (as in outside of me). I'm not the right person to ask about that... Anyway, I'd assimilate this instead of The Little Book of Calm (as seen on the brilliant Black Books series when Manny ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Some nice interviews on youtube with this great genius:

"The mixture of true and false yields falsity (photographed theater or cinema). The false when it is homogeneous can yield truth (theater).

In a mixture of true and false, the true brings out the false, the false hinders belief in the true. An actor simulating fear of shipwreck on the deck of a real ship battered by a real storm–we believe neither the actor, nor in the ship, nor in the
David M
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dennis Cooper (charming author of Frisk) once wrote this rather beautiful appreciation of Bresson:

' Instead of flaunting their difference, or feigning modesty by deferring to the conventions of Hollywood film, they offer up an art so unimpeachably fair, so lacking in ulterior motivation that the effect is a kind of mimicry of what perception might be like were one capable of simultaneously perceiving clearly and appreciating the process by which perception
Craig Werner
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aesthetics, film
Brilliant short book on the aesthetics of the film (mostly non-commercial, largely non-American) of the 50s through 70s that speaks to me most deeply (Godard, Bergman, Antonioni to skim the A list). Bresson isn't quite "New Wave"--he began making his pieces a bit earlier and rather than developing an instantly recognizable "style" (like Godard or Fellini), he developed the approach outlined here that resulted in movies that superficially may seem quite different but bear a deeply personal stamp. ...more
Lee Klein
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Collection of insights into making movies, an art Bresson calls "cinematography," not to be confused with what's commonly called cinematography or cinema. It's more like the flow of life captured by the director's diving rods of camera and tape recorder. Actors are called "models" -- and they should be unrecognizable conveyors of volitionless expression, or something like that. The whole thing's very French, very Zen, stressing silence, intuition, economy. Metaphorically valuable for those not ...more
Sep 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Robert Bresson is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers - and this book doesn't take away the man's mysterious powers of the cinema. It adds to it. Bresson's film notes are poetic and beautiful. He is truly an essential figure in the arts, and one can't help to think that the cinema was made for artists like Bresson.
I'm currently constructing my own vade mecum. This is one of The Books.
Jan 31, 2017 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film
This is a rather odd book. It's a book about film that doesn't talk about any films. I believe only one actor and film is mentioned by name (Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc). What the book consists of are thoughts about filming -- thoughts that are very different from one one usually thinks about as film, which Bresson associates with "the terrible habit of the theatre."

Robert Bresson is a great film director, so consequently his Notes on the Cinematograph is well worth listening to.
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ahhhhh, yes!!:

Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.

Because you do not have to imitate, like painters, sculptors, novelists, the appearance of persons and objects (machines do that for you), your creation or invention confines itself to the ties you knot between the various bits of reality caught. There is also the choice of the bits. Your flair decides.

One does not create by adding, but by taking away. To develop is another matter. (Not to spread out.)

When you do
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Not to attempt a review when the reading is enough.
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
A friend lent me this, partly because I’m preparing to explore Bresson’s filmography through Criterion. It’s a great, often wise, little book; a sort of Pensees of film theory.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

“The faculty of using my resources well diminishes as their number grows.” (p. 10)

“Slow films in which everyone is galloping and gesticulating; swift films in which people hardly stir.” (p. 55)

“In his film X displays things having no appropriateness to each other, and so without bonds, and so
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cinema
"Provoke the unexpected. Expect it."
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm definitely my undiagnosed-OCD father's son. When I was a Berkeley undergraduate, I took my visiting father and stepmother to their first Thai food, which in those benighted days was pretty exotic. He really liked it as, of course, he would. Thai food is awesome. He REALLY liked it, though. I would not be exaggerating much at all if I were to say that every subsequent meal out with them for three decades took place at a Thai restaurant. I might be a little more self-aware, but I'm pretty much ...more
Rob Stammitti
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Goofy and overly rigid but nonetheless essential for people like me who spend more time than maybe they should considering the ontology of movies and the various ways the mediums of the 20th century intermingle with and influence each other. Also it's just really breezy--the amount of time between when I started the book and when I "finished" it is substantial in terms of when I literally started and stopped but it only took like three actual sittings to read the whole thing cover to ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: film
Truly a collection of notes, some expressing fragments of thought, others more complete ideas about the art of film. Through this accumulation of opinions, questions and insights, Bresson reveals his interest in the use of silence and sound, the effects (mainly bad) of the theatric mindset on the cinema, the uses of models (his term) versus actors, and other facets of the art he practiced so notably.
Aditya Watts
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Kind of difficult to comprehend at times. Some interesting observations but I can't help but feel Bresson is convinced by his observations as 'truth' like many artists. Good for provoking thought and as a subject of debate. I personally abhor manifestos or any attempts at rule making in art.
Vaibhav Munjal
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The point is not to direct someone but to direct oneself."

An interesting name for a book which is not a book about cinematography, as it mainly talks about the dos and don'ts of creative filmmaking. A precise collection of notes that will tell you all that Bresson learnt during his lifetime. I am not sure if I could comprehend all the points that he has made in this book, but I am sure I will keep revisiting it for years to come, to fully understand it all.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: filmmaking, favorites
Bits of Bresson: Epithets for the Cinema & the World

Robert Bresson has recently become one of my artistic heroes. Discovering the man and his work this past year has been a real game-changer for me. Like when I began reading Dostoyevsky in high school and learned that a piece of fiction could stimulate me on a spiritual level as well as an empathetic one, and how closely those two worlds were linked. Bresson and his methods resonate with me not only as an artist, but as a human being. His
Faysal Kadow
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In an era where excessive size and scope in films have become the norm, even with indie directors immediately jumping to direct blockbusters, it's good to have a book like this from the father of minimalist film, Robert Bresson. Written in a way to match his style, spare and austere, these thoughts of his are honestly helpful even outside of film. I recommend this book to both the film student and beginner directors. It's obvious that no one can emulate Bresson, but it still proves to be helpful ...more
Jun 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
«The thing that matters is not what they show me but what they hide from me and, above all, what they do not suspect is in them.»

«A whole made of good images can be detestable.»

«The noises must become music.»

«Catch instants. Spontaneity, freshness.»

«Unbalance so as to re-balance.»

«Be the first to see what you see as you see it.»

«Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen.»

«It is in its pure form that an art hits hard.»

«Empty the pond to get the fish.»

«Provoke the unexpected.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
This modest collections of aphorisms would not be in print were it not for the (justified) stature of its author as a metteur en scene. It is, however, a perfect example of why motion pictures have a niche in the realm of art--just as there are sentiments which can be expressed with prose (and not visually), the converse is also true. Bresson's attempts to express the ineffable "soul" of his filmmaking in words is largely pointless and doomed to frustration. His films, such as Journal d'un curé ...more
Oct 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A tidy, Zen-like summation of the special aesthetic Bresson brought to film. Bresson wanted faces, not actors; events, not scenes; "BEING instead of SEEMING." To this end he insisted on amateurs over trained actors, noises over music, slowness and close-ups over speed and pans. Cinematography as Bresson explains it here is a unique form of writing. His efforts to make an essentially mechanical & visual medium parallel the inwardness of the written word has to be one of the strangest and most ...more
Ian Hamilton
Huge Bresson fan; laud the ethos behind his approach to filmmaking; seen em all; respect the man immensely - I'm going to be the detractor on this one; unfortunately this collection of notes doesn't really do much. Yes, there are some nuggets of greatness buried in here, but the collection is largely repetitive, some of his observations frankly just don't make sense, and yes, I'll say it, it's pretty pretentious. Trudging through this didn't come easy. I really, really, really wanted to glean ...more
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, owned
This one is destined to be carried with me everywhere, to become a rotten and stained go-to for when I'm stuck, for when I need to be reminded where I started from. Not quite like the Oblique Strategies Deck, but similar in the contemplative and reflective nature for my writing, which I had some inkling was related to my previous career as a photographer. This book helped me see more clearly that bridge.
Jeff Jackson
Sep 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: celluloid-dreams
"Don't show all sides of things. A margin of indefiniteness." / "Not artful, but agile." / "No marriage of theatre and cinematography without both being exterminated." / "From beings and things of nature, washed clean of all art and especially the art of drama, you will make art." / etc.
Taha Abed
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
if I wanna describe it then I would say its Wittgenstein's on Cinema. its radical, simplistic and impactful.
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems futile to give a rating to what amounts to a personal diary or manifesto, but this is a work that will likely speak more to someone (such as myself) whose profession is specifically in the film and video production industry rather than most other people. I often found it inspiring and sometimes confounding, not because words were lost in translation from the original French, but simply due to its cursory and almost stream-of-consciousness nature.

A favorite entry: "Images and sounds
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bresson does Twitter.

No, that's a bit cruel. In an interesting way, we are confronted with fragments of ideas and thoughts that Bresson has on life and art. I didn't finish the book as fast I thought I would because some of his statements, and the way they are edited together, really did sink. I needed to take a breather, let them gestate in my head before I could move on.

There is a great irony that those storytellers of the 19th and 20th century who understood the importance of standing up to
Ryan Swen
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Though the specific qualities that make this such a staggering work are by no means absent from the realm of film writing or criticism, there's something that feels firmly literary about Bresson's extensive (yet slim) series of aphorisms. Like in his films, there exists a delicate balance between words, between phrases (and the ideas they suggest), between the arrangement of phrases that gives this its power, continually emphasizing his central filmmaking edicts while suggesting much more. ...more
A. Collins
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this collection of notes Bresson details his minimalist method of filmmaking. It reads like poetry. It's made of one-off phrases such as "the ejaculatory force of the eye" and "noise of a door opening and shutting, noise of footsteps, etc., for the sake of rhythm." There are musings on the actions one does without thinking, or "automatism," and on film's distinction from theater.


"Be as ignorant of what you are going to
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Goodreads Librari...: Done Please add description in French - Robert Bresson 2 11 Nov 08, 2019 12:36AM  
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سایت فیلمسازی (حل مشکل فیلمسازان 1 5 Nov 24, 2011 01:01PM  

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Robert Bresson (French: [ʁɔbɛʁ bʁɛsɔ]; 25 September 1901 – 18 December 1999) was a French film director known for his spiritual, ascetic and aesthetic style. He contributed notably to the art of film and influenced the rise of French New Wave cinema. He is often referred to as the most highly regarded French filmmaker after Jean Renoir. Bresson's influence on French cinema was once described by ...more
“Cinematography is a writing with images in mouvement and with sounds.” 34 likes
“Bring together things that have not yet been brought together and did not seem predisposed to be so.” 26 likes
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