A terrific encapsulation of the philosophies and techniques behind the cinematic masterpieces of Robert Bresson, from the...

BRESSON ON BRESSON

INTERVIEWS, 1943-1983

Reflections of a cinematic grandmaster.

Robert Bresson (1901-1999) was one of the few directors of France’s cinematic old guard to be taken up by the iconoclastic French New Wave filmmakers, as the upstarts admired his exacting and poetic aesthetic and his commitment to the idea of pure cinema. In these short interviews, Bresson, who was given to such gnomic proclamations as, “sound cinema invented silence,” proves to be a deeply analytical thinker who nonetheless puts a premium on intuition and instinct. In landmark films including Pickpocket (1959) and The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962), the director famously eschewed theatrical notions of “acting,” casting nonprofessionals in the interest of capturing authentic behavior. Measured, austere, and elegant in their simplicity, Bresson’s films produce profound emotional effects. The extent to which the filmmaker was conscious of every aspect of his craft in achieving those effects, as well as his enduring, passionate dedication to better understanding and expanding his tools, is on illuminating display in these conversations. Most compelling is an extended exchange with New Wave enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard, whose interrogation of Bresson reveals a penetrating and nuanced appreciation of the older man’s films and provides a poignant reminder of the heady, collaborative, intellectual community that was the film culture of the mid-1960s. Bresson’s monklike devotion to his idea of “pure” cinema wavers not a bit over the course of the four decades represented here, but it is his optimism and faith in his medium that inspire the greatest admiration. The book ends with this statement from Bresson, made in 1983, with 40 years of revelatory cinema behind him: “The cinema is immense. We haven’t done a thing.” That’s not an admonition; it’s an invitation.

A terrific encapsulation of the philosophies and techniques behind the cinematic masterpieces of Robert Bresson, from the man himself.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68137-044-6

Page Count: 296

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2016

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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