8 October – 26 November 2011
Film program: free admission
Renowned French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) made six documentary films throughout his working life, five of which are presented in this program. Interested in the power of film early in his career, Cartier-Bresson studied documentary filmmaking in New York, later apprenticing to the acclaimed French director Jean Renoir. Cartier-Bresson’s films explore similar themes to his photography, including an interest in political struggles as well as his fascination with people and culture.
This program screens in conjunction with ‘Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image & The World’ from 27 August – 27 November 2011 at the Queensland Art Gallery.
After learning the fundamentals of documentary filmmaking in New York, Cartier-Bresson made his first film Return to Life, an impassioned document about the need for medical relief on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War. He would go on to direct the politically charged documentary Spain Will Live to support the Republican movement by exposing the spread of fascism in Europe.
Thank you to Ciné-Archives, French Communist Party Audiovisual Archives for their help with Victory of Life HCB, 1937 and Spain Will Live HCB, 1938. You can view these films online at www.cinearchives.org
‘Cartier-Bresson was mobilised in September 1939, at the declaration of war between France and Germany, and was taken prisoner when the French army collapsed in June 1940. He escaped his Nazi work camp — Stalag VC, near Stuttgart — on his third attempt, in February 1943. In September 1944, shortly after the liberation of Paris, he was commissioned by the United States Office of War Information to make Le Retour, a documentary about the repatriation of former prisoners of war and other displaced persons, on which he collaborated with Captain G Krimsky and Lieutenant Richard Banks. Like Cartier-Bresson, writer-journalist Claude Roy, who provided the commentary, and Robert Lannoy, who wrote the music, were also former prisoners of war. The final sequence, at the Gare de l’Est, was shot by chief cameraman Claude Renoir, nephew of Jean Renoir.’ MoMA
‘Shot in colour with live sound, Cartier-Bresson’s last two films were documentaries for television. The films are collections of candid observations, free of narration or interpretive commentary. Cartier-Bresson chose the subjects: California, home to Leisure World and Esalen, surfing, and opponents and proponents of the Vietnam War; and Mississippi, home to the faded glory of the Confederacy, racist whites and progressive blacks, and atavistic religion. Both films portray some circumstances quite sympathetically, but they leave an overall impression of an alien culture that is fascinating largely because it is appalling.’ MoMA
Made the year before his death, this insight into Cartier-Bresson’s working processes features a rare interview in which the photographer discusses his travels and career while leafing through photographic albums. A selection of Cartier-Bresson’s portrait subjects, including French actress Isabelle Huppert and author Arthur Miller, relate their experiences of working with the photographer. Cartier-Bresson’s publisher, Robert Delpire, and fellow Magnum photographers Elliot Erwitt, Josef Koudelka and Fernando Scianna, discuss Cartier-Bresson’s unique body of work.