In Paris, the famous phrase Sous les pavés, la plage! ("under the cobblestones, the beach") was used by the May 1968 protesters to mean that it was possible to escape from a regimented life. Back in 1968, groups of students and miscellaneous artists would dig up cobble stone roads to expose “la plage” and either throw the stones at police or leave them in piles around the city. Passerbys were invited to interact.
It is the inside that commands. I know that it may seem paradoxical in an art that is all about the outside…Only the conflicts that take place inside the characters give its movement to the film, its real movement…A film is the typical kind of creation that claims a style. It needs an author, a writing…What the director has in sight, is an effect to produce or a series of effects. If he is conscientious, his preliminary work will consist precisely of going back from the effect to the cause. Starting from what he wants to obtain, the emotion of the audience, he looks for the best combinations to create that emotion. It’s a path walked backwards, with choices and rejections, mistakes, interpolations, that fatally leads him to the origin of composition, that is to say the very composition.
The truth of my feelings about the cinema of Robert Bresson is very simple. When walking out of a screening of Pickpocket as a young man, with close friends who hadn’t understood a thing about the film, who had missed what seemed so incredibly obvious to me, I felt, deeply, that it had let me see into the inner beauty of cinema in a way that would someday allow me to make films myself.
There are a lot of filmmakers I admire: Bergman, Fassbinder, Cassavetes, Visconti, Mizoguchi, Rohmer, Scorsese, Dreyer, Rossellini, Pasolini, Renoir, Tarkovsky, just to mention the few that most naturally come to mind.
But Bresson is, for me, in a category of his own. He is what keeps me faithful to what cinema can achieve. In moments of discouragement, he reminds me how great films can be…
And I don’t think I would be making films if not for him, or certainly not the same films.
February 6, 1932 — October 21, 1984
“I saw my first two hundred films on the sly, playing hooky and slipping into the movie house without paying—through the emergency exit or the washroom window—or by taking advantage of my parents’ going out for an evening (I had to be in bed, pretending to be asleep, when they came home). I paid for these great pleasures with stomachaches, cramps, nervous headaches and guilty feelings, which only heightened the emotions evoked by the films. I felt a tremendous need to enter into the films. I sat closer and closer to the screen so I could shut out the theater. […] At that period in my life, movies acted on me like a drug. The film club I founded in 1947 was called—somewhat pretentiously but revealingly—the Movie-mania Club (Cercle Cinémane). Sometimes I saw the same film four or five times within a month and could still not recount the story line correctly because, at one moment or another, the swelling of the music, a chase through the night, the actress’s tears, would intoxicate me, make me lose track of what was going on, carry me away from the rest of the movie.”
“When I make a film, I never stop uncovering mysteries, making discoveries. When I’m writing, filming, editing, even doing promotional work, I discover new things about the film, about myself, and about others. That is what I’m subconsciously looking for when shooting a film: to glimpse the enigmas of life, even if I don’t resolve them, but at least to uncover them. Cinema is curiosity in the most intense meaning of the word.”
“I work out of fear of loneliness. When you work, you’re not as lonely as when you don’t work. I have specific and very human reasons for doing so much.”
“I would like to build a house with my films. Some are the cellars, others the walls, still others the windows. But I hope in the end it will be a house.”