The Invention of Robert Bresson: The Auteur and His Market

By Colin Burnett | Go to book overview

Acknowledgments

I VIEW THIS BOOK as a testament to the power stubborn hunches often hold over the life of an academic. For roughly eighteen years, since I was an undergraduate student at Concordia University in Montréal, I’ve been riding a single hunch— that the cinema of Robert Bresson could be more effectively grounded in history. Many deserve thanks for helping me turn a hunch into a dissertation, and now a dissertation into a book.

In 1998, Edmund Egan, my professor of philosophical aesthetics, recommended Susan Sontag’s “Spiritual Style in the Films of Robert Bresson.” I read it—repeatedly. It was a defining experience. Two of her ideas set my mind abuzz (and continue to do so today): Bresson’s is a reflective art that holds emotional payoffs in abeyance, and the tradition to which it belongs is poorly understood.

Concordia University is where the search for answers about this tradition first began to yield results. I am particularly grateful to my mentors there. Martin Lefebvre taught me the importance of methodological precision and lucidity, and of asking, why does this matter? John W. Locke generously committed to an independent study on Bresson’s cinematographers when neither one of us was certain it would lead anywhere. Virginia Nixon introduced me to the work of Michael Baxandall, which proved to be pivotal years later. Peter Rist showed enthusiasm for my first paper on Bresson, and encouraged me to pursue an MA on the strength of it. Donato Totaro published my first piece on Bresson. And I had many long conversations about Bresson (and much else) with fellow MA students Michael Baker, Brian Crane, Santiago Hidalgo, Farbod Honarpisheh, Randolph Jordan, Chris Meir, and Adam Rosadiuk, and each left a lasting impression.

At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, my early findings grew into a dissertation project. Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell encouraged me to be creative as I expanded the range of my primary materials, shared their views on various art-historical approaches, and opened many doors. Lea Jacobs bolstered my commitment to close analysis. My dissertation committee—Jeff Smith, Ben Singer, Vance Kepley Jr., and Barbara Buenger—consistently pushed the project toward fresh avenues of film and art-historical research. I owe a special debt of gratitude to my advisor, Kelley Conway. Her extensive knowledge of France and of French film history and scholarship helped me make new connections and develop confidence as I dove deeper and deeper into the circumstantial matter. Merci infiniment!

-xi-

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