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Quietly We Bray: Damon Smith on “Au hasard Balthazar”

Quietly We Bray: Damon Smith on "Au hasard Balthazar"

When I call to mind images from the films of Robert Bresson, it is not an actor’s face or a definitive sequence that emerges from what feels like ancient memory, but rather a series of disconnected close-ups drawn at random from the filmmaker’s body of work. Hands, mostly, those vessels for depicting soulful inquiry (a heretic; a country priest) or iniquity (a pickpocket, a killer, a wicked chorister) that proliferate in his sublime vision of humanity exalted yet estranged from itself, reckoning with dual impulses, negotiating varied proportions of choice and chance. But there are other images, too: instances of sound—auditory close-ups, as it were—that have had an even greater purchase on my recollections of the Bressonian universe, all indelible and unique, but married to no particular camera shot or sequence. It is my ear that remembers Bresson best: the whinny of horses in Lancelot du Lac, the creaking of doors in L’Argent, the snapping of branches and clip-clop of clogs in Mouchette. This is all by design. Read Damon Smith’s contribution to the Reverse Shot Sounds Off symposium.

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