Too much thinking
Edmund White quips in Sketches From Memory: People and Places in the Heart of our Paris(Edmund White & Hubert Sorin 1994) that French people habitually seek something concrete from their experience of art; they crowd around the wall text in a museum yet breeze past the art itself. I’m thinking of that as I watch Robert Bresson’s 1983 press conference in Cannes after a screening of his L’Argent. The (mostly very young) journalists quiz him intensely about meaning, representation, acting. Bresson, in what looks to me like a comic acting improvisation in itself, claims he cannot hear the question, and then cannot understand it. His (formally untrained) actors look on protectively, whispering in his ear, as he attempts to deflect all this chatter and earnest commentary, the spare tragedy of the film itself buried under too much thinking. Having just read Bresson’s bracing, economical, and disruptive NOTES ON CINEMATOGRAPHY (1977 translation), I am questioning, once again, how film and theatre connect (or don’t and/or shouldn’t, according to Bresson). His argument against gesamptkunstwerke is contrarian; let an art be what it is, exploring its fundamental nature, and stop trying to bombard us with enormousness and representation.
I have Dennis Cooper to thank for this; when we went to his presentation at Lincoln Center Film Society a few weeks ago, he and Dennis Lim mentioned Bresson repeatedly, both the film and the book, and showed a clip from Lancelot du Lac. It had been several years since I looked at a Bresson film. I got the book and L’argentfrom the library. Just what I needed to jolt my aesthetics.