Mathilde HK at the screening : Le siecle de Cartier Bresson by Pierre Assouline

You like Photography? You are curious about black and white masters? You enjoy artist’s biographies?


Cartier-Bresson, book cover,

On Sunday May the 24th, the Alliance Française organised, in Central, a screening and a talk focusing on the documentaries realized by the French journalist, historian and writer Pierre Assouline, with the technical assistance of Michele Hollander. The author attended the show and gave a talk afterwards on the way he had worked with Henri Cartier Bresson, in particular, when he wrote his biography: Henri Cartier-Bresson, l’oeil du siecle, published in 2001.


Pierre Assouline, portrait,

After having worked on 10 biographies, such as Simenon, Herge, Gaston Gallimard, Nissim de Camondo etc, Pierre Assouline decided to start working on a new media: film, and to produce series of documentaries. He has been working on Marguerite Duras, Simenon, Cartier-Bresson and Levi-Strauss. He also helped in realizing the recent documentary on Le Corbusier, presented at Centre Pompidou, in Paris for the opening of the Le Corbusier exhibition last May 2015.

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The Century of Cartier-Bresson,

The Century of Cartier-Bresson is a 53′ documentary made in 2012 by Pierre Assouline. It was showed last Sunday in French with English subtitles.
Event poster, picture @alliancefrancaise
The documentary is peculiar in that it doesn’t refer to any interviews except the ones of the photograph himself. So, the public can only hear Henri Cartier-Bresson’s voice, with some music pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach in the background. The film is in a chronological order and depicts the many fights led by the photograph: his Parisian life with his friends the Surrealists, the civil war in 1936 Spain, the liberation of Paris in 1944, his meeting with Gandhi on Gandhi’s day of death in 1948, his last days in China before the invasion of the Red Army, his portraits of celebrities, his pictures of the Soviet union.
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Henri Cartier-Bresson, Courses de chevaux, Thurles, Tipperary County, Munster, Irlande, 1952. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos. Courtesy Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson.
In the talk, Pierre Assouline explained his 7 years friendship with the photograph, a man who did not like interviews and first wanted no biography written on him. Pierre Assouline had tried for many years to interview him. One day, in the 1990s, he finally answered the journalist and they became good friends, until the artist’s death in 2004.
Place de l’Europe, gare Saint-Lazare, Paris, 1932, Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum, Courtesy Fondation HCB
I really enjoyed the film, with emotion and beauty. I also liked when Pierre Assouline told us some anecdotes, such as Cartier-Bresson’s taste for painting and how he used to go to the Louvre every morning to paint : La Raie by Chardin was his favorite still-life to copy. He also explained to us that Cartier-Bresson had many drawing exhibitions, even at the MET in New-York, but the photograph lately confessed they were not matching the quality of his photos. Finally, Pierre Assouline tried to define the artists’s philosophy. Cartier-Bresson converted to Buddhism and was very much linked to the Surrealist movement, which made him a pure product of the XXth century.
Le siecle de Cartier-Bresson, by Pierre Assouline
A dvd and a documentary produced by ARTE
  • Origine : ARTE F
  • Pays : France
  • Année : 2012
  • Disponible en direct : oui
  • Son : Stereo
  • Image : HD, 16/9
  • Arte+7: 27.02-06.03.2014
  • Prix : 20 euros TTC


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