French film director and screenwriter. His insistence on ultra-realistic performances (usually by amateur actors) and his austere, precisely composed black-and-white imagery allow him to concentrate on his central themes of corruption and despair. The influence of the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky was evident in Pickpocket (1959) and Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc/The Trial of Joan of Arc (1961).
Although Bresson made comparatively few films, his work is among the greatest achievements of French cinema. His work shows a fascination with his characters' emotions rather than their actions. Le Journal d'un curé de campagne/The Diary of a Country Priest (1950) examines the spiritual torment of a dying curate. Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé/A Man Escaped (1956) charts a prisoner's painstaking preparations for an escape bid from a Nazi jail.
Life Bresson was born in Bromont-Lamothe, Auvergne, France, trained in art and philosophy, and worked as a painter and photographer before entering films as a scriptwriter in the mid-1930s. He made his debut as a director with the comedy short Les Affaires publiques (1934), but he spent much of the next decade writing scripts. Arrested by the Nazis, he was detained in a concentration camp, making the intense religious drama Les Anges du péché/Angels of the Streets on his release (1943).
Work His second feature, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1944), with dialogue by Jean Cocteau, has a similarly abstract, mystical quality. Une Femme douce/A Gentle Creature (1969) and Quatre Nuits d'un rêveur/Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971) were adapted from Dostoevsky stories. After the moving life of a donkey, Au Hasard, Balthasar (1965), and the powerful suicide drama Mouchette (1967), Bresson worked in colour. Lancelot du lac (1974), Le Diable probablement/The Devil Probably (1977), and L'Argent (1982; best director award at the Cannes Film Festival) completed a body of work that despite its lack of commercial success has been accorded enormous critical respect. He is also regarded as the most Catholic of all film-makers. Bresson published a volume of his reflections on cinema, Notes sur la cinématographie (1975).
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