The title's a little much, you say? Tell that to the throngs of critics and film professors who are constantly heaping praise upon a man known as the "patron saint of cinema." I myself have sinned and am ashamed to say that I've spent more time reading about Robert Bresson than I have actually watching his films. I've only seen Diary of a Country Priest, Au Hasard Balthazar, and most recently: The Trial of Joan of Arc. As a result, I don't have much business writing a piece about him but I couldn't help myself after being so moved by his portrayal of Joan of Arc's ordeal.
Bresson is one of those directors that critics adore but tend to stump most audiences. Upon viewing his films they can come off as agonizingly slow and uneventful. But when you realize that Bresson's style is largely a lack of stylishness, it all comes together. Two of the most important qualities a director can possess are restraint and maturity. Bresson's work is the epitome of that belief. His films seem simple and the few that I've seen can seem like they're building up to nothing but in the end you realize that you've been taken on an absolutely transcendental journey. His films are utterly profound in their apparent simplicity.
Bresson is best known for striving for truth in cinema. A truth that he felt was lacking in theatre because it relied on the performances of actors to convey feelings and emotions. He thought that actors had too many tricks and were so wrapped up in technique that they couldn't convey what he wanted.
What seperated film from theatre for him was that you could convey feelings and ideas through purely cinematic techniques such as composition. He was the most pure of filmmakers. He eschewed music as much as he could and rarely used camera movements. I've heard that he also never used wideangle or zoom lenses because he felt that they distorted the world. Maybe if he had been trying to tell an effective story, different lenses would have been important but for him there was something much more important at stake. Because of this, he only used a "normal lens" which sees the world in the same way the human eye does.