The acclaimed director of Mishima, American Gigolo, Hard Core, Blue Collar, Cat People also the screenwriter for Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader here analyzes the film style of three great directorsYasajiro Ozu, Robert Bresson, Carl Dreyerand posits a common dramatic language by these artists from divergent cultures. Unlike the style of psychological realism, which dominates film, the transcendental style expresses a spiritual state with austere camerawork, acting devoid of self-consciousness, and editing that avoids editorial comment. This important book is an original contribution to film analysis and a key work by one of our most searching directors and writers.
About the Author
Paul Schrader is the acclaimed director of Mishima, American Gigolo, Hard Core, Blue Collar, Cat People and the screenwriter for Taxi Driver.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For some reason or other, this book remains, thirty years after its publishing, an authoritative introduction for newcomers to Bresson and Ozu (not so much to Dreyer). Having spent several years studying French and English-language Bresson scholarship and criticism, I must encourage those who are looking for a reliable way to 'insert' themselves into Bresson's films to begin elsewhere. Schrader's book has not aged gracefully. Its primary shortcoming is that, in the case of the chapter on Bresson, it is sadly outdated. First and foremost, for a book that boasts to offer a 'theory' of (transcendental) style, it offers little more than an interpretation of a select group of Bresson's films (the so-called 'Prison Cycle') and their stylistic tendencies. While some of these stylistic observations remain strong, they are covered over with the most outrageous of readings of Bresson's films that the observations themselves lose their initial value. Published in 1972, the theory that Bresson's style is adapted to 'express' the 'Holy' fails to account for the filmmaker's later, almost atheistic, color work, like 'Lancelot du Lac,' 'Le Diable, Probablement' and 'L'Argent.' In order to convince us that this theory applies, Schrader would have to write a new edition of the book, which would have to make sense of the 'anti-transcendental' leanings of the last stage of Bresson's career. I doubt whether this could be accomplished. He would also, I believe, need to address an issue raised by David Bordwell in 'Making Meaning,' in the chapter 'Why Not to Read a Film.' Schrader fudges the line between hermeneutics and theory, offering not a 'theory' that makes sense of Bresson's 'style,' but an interpretation that periodically makes use of formal and stylistic observations. In short, there are many shortcomings to Schrader's scholarship, here. To those new to Bresson, I'd have to suggest a few other texts that are more sober in their methods and conclusions: Kent Jones' Introduction to his BFI Modern Classics book on 'L'Argent,' Andre Bazin's essay on Bresson's style in Volume I of 'What is Cinema?' (which remains not only one of the best pieces on Bresson, but one of Bazin's best as well), and last but not least, the collection of essays edited by James Quandt (particularly the essays by P. Adams Sitney). The best essays on Bresson contextualize his stylistic development, noting that his 'autere' style emerged in part as a response to the French 'cinema de qualite.' Even Manny Farber's short write-up on 'La Femme Douce' in 'Negative Spaces' is more sound than Schrader's entire chapter on Bresson.
Quirky, almost uniformly brilliant thesis by Paul Schrader, delineating something he called "transcendental style" -- a kind of aesthetically rigourous, visually detached series of gestures he traces from Byzantine art through the films of the Danish Carl Theodor Dreyer, French Robert Bresson and Japanese Ozu Yasujiro. His analyses have largely been ignored or deemed outdated (this was originally published in 1966), but I find it still persuasive and insightful.