by Jim Ridley
The 21st century's first touring retrospective of Robert Bresson's films is coming to Nashville, and The Belcourt just posted details at its website. Country Life passed along a few of these when word of the retrospective broke last month — but there's more to report.
Apart from the movies, the best news is an accompanying four-part symposium at Belmont United Methodist Church led by critics and scholars in conjunction with the screenings. Returning to Nashville and The Belcourt is Essential Cinema author and esteemed critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who addressed a full house for the opening weekend of The Belcourt's "Visions of the South" series last year. He'll speak Sunday, April 8 on one of Bresson's masterworks, 1966's Au hasard Balthazar.
Discussing Bresson's last film, the cut-to-the-bone 1981 Tolstoy adaptation L'Argent, will be Chuck Stephens, the widely anthologized Film Comment/Cinema Scope critic who lives in Nashville and now teaches film at Watkins. (His syllabus each semester looks like the marquee in heaven's multiplex.) He'll appear March 25, with March 11's A Man Escaped discussed by Jennifer Fay, director of the film studies program at Vanderbilt; and March 20's Lancelot du Lac analyzed by Lynn Ramey, Vanderbilt associate professor of French and chair of the department of French and Italian.
Lancelot, Bresson's rigorously anti-romantic 1974 depiction of the Arthurian legend, may be the film I'm most excited to see on the big screen. The director peels away the gauzy trappings of courtly love, reducing the rituals of jousting and fighting to bone-jarring, robotic collisions of clanking metal: the participants are dehumanized, until their blood starts to flow. (It's said to have been a direct inspiration for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) It's one of several films in the series that haven't been shown in Nashville in decades.
A list of all nine films can be found here, with a schedule and symposium details. A pass that includes all nine films and the four symposium lectures is $85. And a round of applause, please, for Belcourt benefactors Scott and Mimi Manzler, who made the series possible.