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Palm Pictures presents
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye (2003)

"You just have to live, and life will give you pictures."
- Henri Cartier-Bresson

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: February 06, 2006

Stars: Henri Cartier-Bresson
Other Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Arthur Miller
Director: Heinz Bčtler

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:12m:38s
Release Date: February 14, 2006
UPC: 660200312923
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+B-C

DVD Review

Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson's eye is uncanny—his images always somehow feel organic, and not overly composed, windows into found moments that are compositionally exquisite. You can maybe luck into a couple of those pictures in a lifetime; but when you do it over and over again, for years and around the world, you are a master. Made a year before his death, this documentary provides a breezy overview of the work, with many photographs and comments from the man behind the camera and some of his most famous fans. It's decidedly not a biography, though, as we get only the sketchiest outline of facts; it's essentially a celebration.

Much of the movie, in fact, are extended shots of an old man, with a hearing aid and a glass of white wine, looking through his many beautiful pictures. Cartier-Bresson offers some random ruminations—whatever thoughts the pictures spark, essentially—and the screen is flooded with many of his photographs: street scenes, architectural studies, politically loaded images from all over the world, and the occasional portrait of a well-known face. Intercut with him are a number of his most ardent admirers, including actress Isabelle Huppert and playwright Arthur Miller—the latter is especially poignant discussing Cartier-Bresson's photos of Marilyn Monroe—but actually what you get here are shots of people paging through Cartier-Bresson albums, and saying whatever comes to mind. Some of it is interesting—especially from photographers who looked to Cartier-Bresson's work for inspiration—but it's all off the cuff and without any sort of extended consideration, of technique, of aesthetics, of Cartier-Bresson's place in the photographic pantheon, of just what makes his images so wonderful.

There are a couple of fascinating, almost throwaway moments—Cartier-Bresson mentions that he was Jean Renoir's second assistant director, and alludes to his time as a P.O.W., but the filmmaker either assumes wrongly that we all know the outlines of the life, or simply expects us to turn elsewhere. Still, so many of the pictures are so lovely, and the running time of the film is short enough, that it's over before you can get antsy.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Fairly well transferred, though occasionally the colors are more faded than one might like.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Francophones, including Cartier-Bresson, are dubbed into English; a little too much buzz.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Packaging: Unknown
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: dOc was supplied only with a screener copy, bearing the promise that the final DVD may or may not include additional material.

Extras Grade:


Final Comments

This is sort of the cinematic equivalent of spending time with a wonderful old fellow as he rummages through his basement, and listening to his memories of a lifetime. Not much of a study of the man and his work, but always pleasant, and occasionally, thanks to the photographs, stunning to look at.


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