A rare and revealing visit with the elusive master filmmaker, Without a Trace (Ni vu, ni connu) by the French series Cinéastes de notre temps presents an hour long interview with Robert Bresson.
Regarded by some of cinema’s beloved directors—Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky just to name a few—as the one to exemplify film as art, Bresson discusses a wide range of topics at his country home while taking a break from shooting Au hasard Balthazar. He describes in-depth his approach to filmmaking while sharing the inspiration behind his films and his thoughts on the state of the then contemporary cinema. It is amazing to see Bresson, who is considered by critics to be an ascetic filmmaker, talk about his admiration for a recent film he had seen at the theater: the third film in the James Bond series, Goldfinger.
Robert Bresson’s philosophy on the aesthetics of film makes Without a Trace an important historical document. Andrei Tarkovsky stated, An artist should not create sketches, produce notebooks filled with half-baked ideas—he should create works that count, and this is very true of Robert Bresson. His films are worlds in of themselves, timeless cinematic experiences that count. Tarkovsky, who received the Grand Prix du cinéma de creation award (Best Director) at Cannes 1983 for Nostalghia along with Robert Bresson for L’Argent, declared:
There are many reasons I consider Bresson a unique phenomenon in the world of film. Indeed, Bresson is one of the artists who has shown that cinema is an artistic discipline on the same level as the classic artistic disciplines such as poetry, literature, painting, and music.
The second reason I admire Bresson is personal. It is the significance of his work for me—the vision of the world that it expresses. This vision of the world is expressed in an ascetic way, almost laconic, lapidary I would say. Very few artists succeed in this. Every serious artist strives for simplicity, but only a few manage to achieve it. Bresson is one of the few who has succeeded.
The third reason is the inexhaustibility of Bresson’s artistic form. That is, one is compelled to consider his artistic form as life, nature itself. In that sense, I find him very close to the oriental artistic concept of Zen: depth within narrowly defined limits. Working with these forms, Bresson attempts in his films not to be symbolic; he tries to create a form as inexhaustible as nature, life itself.
In capturing such a unique filmmaker and providing unparalleled insight into his work and ideas, Without a Trace is a genuine experience into the world of Robert Bresson.