TORONTO - TIFF Cinematheque is calling its retrospective on the influential French director Robert Bresson, which took several years to organize and includes new prints of important films, "one of the key cinema events of the year."

Running at the TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre from Feb. 9 to March 30 and touring across North America, the program includes all 13 of Bresson's full-length films.

"Arguably, every single one of those is close to a masterpiece," says TIFF director and CEO Piers Handling.

"I never tire of his work — he's to me one of the great, great film artists," Handling says of Bresson, who died in 1999 and was known for his use of non-professional actors and minimalist style.

Assembling the seven-week series — the first full Bresson retrospective in North America in 14 years — was a "massive" challenge that included dealing with a maze of rights issues, adds Handling.

"Making sure that you get pristine prints, making sure that they're subtitled as well, is just becoming more and more difficult to do in the original film format."

The retrospective, titled "The Poetry of Precision: The Films of Robert Bresson," was launched Jan. 6 at New York City's Film Forum, with the New York Times calling it "one of those rare programs in which every film is a must-see."

It opens April 4 at Vancouver's Pacific Cinematheque, the only other Canadian venue so far.

Other tour stops over the next few months include the Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge, Mass.; the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles; the National Gallery of Art in Washington; and the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle.

The lineup features a restored print of Bresson's first feature, "Les Anges du peche" (1943), a metaphysical thriller set in a convent. Other highlights include "A Man Escaped" (1956), in which a French Resistance leader plans his escape from a Nazi prison; "Le Diable probablement" (1977), which was prohibited in France to viewers under age 18 as a possible incitement to suicide; and "L'Argent" (1983), an indictment of capitalism that is considered his final masterpiece.

The retrospective was organized by TIFF programmer James Quandt, a Bresson authority whose book on the director is being released next month in a revised edition. Quandt has described Bresson as a "filmmaker's filmmaker" whose works have also inspired poets, musicians, choreographers and painters.


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