By Noel Burch, Helen R. Lane
Concept of movie perform, trans. Helen R. Lane, Praeger Publishers, 1973; Princeton, N.J.: Princeton collage Press, 1981.
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This and other similar uses of off-screen space might be ascribed to Bresson's alleged reluctance to show distasteful scenes, but, as Au Hasard B althazar and Mouchette have demonstrated, in actual fact he is not all that squeamish, and plastic values h ave always been the crucial ones determining his use of a technique, as is amply proved by the manner in which he organized the movements into and out of frame in this particular shot. In Pickpocket the empty screen plays a much broader role. Here, Bresson achieves what might be called an orchestration of space, rigorously controlling the moments when the screen is left empty and the duration of these moments and establishing the precise extent of the surrounding off-screen space through his use of sound ( the shots in which the pickpocket leaves his room, then exits from frame, with the sound of his footsteps then being heard as he makes his way down the stairs come particularly to mind ) .
From that moment on, off-screen space came to be used almost exclusively as a way of suggesting events when directors felt that simply showing them di rectly would be too facile. Erected into a veritable aesthetic system, this principle was carried to its ultimate limits in Nicholas Ray's first ( and best ) film, They Live by Night. " However, this rather crude distinction between what is actually visible and what is left unseen utterly fails to take into ac count the complex vectors that directional and diversified oppositions between screen space and off-screen space can provide in the way of an aesthetic tool, as certain other directors had discovered.
Fontaine actually only exits from frame once. I became aware of this during a re-viewing of the film just before submitting the final draft of the French manuscript. I nevertheless decided to leave this passage unchanged, thereby providing a deliberate example ( there are doubtless inadvertent examples elsewhere in the text) of the viewer's faulty recollection of a film, a phenomenon quite intim ately related to the way in which he perceives a film, which is a subject that deserves thorough study in itself.