STUDIES IN THE USE AND VISUALIZATION OF FILM PERFORMANCE: ALFRED HITCHCOCK, ROBERT BRESSON, JEAN RENOIR (UNITED STATES, FRANCE)
This dissertation begins an examination into the relationship between approaches to the art of performance and directorial strategies for its visualization. In an attempt to determine more precise ways to analyze both film performance and modes of reception, three directors are examined who espouse radically different approaches to the consideration of performance as an aspect of mise-en-scene and whose films provide evidence of divergent visual aesthetics: Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Bresson, and Jean Renoir.
While Alfred Hitchcock privileges aspects of projective performance, his preference is for extra-performance strategies which intensify both the projection of character detail and its reception: in his films, highly choreographed movements and gestures are synchronized to satisfy the exigencies of the director's pre-determined approach to cinematic form and structure. Robert Bresson argues for the absolute purity of the cinema, refusing all traditions of the theater, particularly projective modes of performance: in his films, non-professional performers are strictly forbidden actorly indulgence. Preferring to explicate the physiology rather than the psychology of character, Bresson foregrounds isolated gesture in highly structured montage sequences. Finally, claiming his work begins with the performer, Jean Renoir encourages his actors to explore their characters as individuals by avoiding all cliched interpretations of psychological motivation. When Renoir feels that this inner truth has been achieved, he formalizes his visual approach, generally foregrounding the performers' naturalistic expression of character.
Each exploration of directorial aesthetics includes an examination of spectatorship, casting, direction of performance, and visual style and structure as it relates to performance. In each chapter, this is followed by a case study of exemplary film: Hitchcock's Vertigo, Bresson's A Man Escaped, Renoir's Boudu Saved From Drowning.