In concert with the International Center of Photography’s upcoming exhibition, “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment,” Anthology presents this extensive series highlighting the legendary photographer’s various entanglements with the cinema. Cartier-Bresson (who would’ve turned 110 on August 22) is inarguably a towering figure within the history of photography, thanks to his peerless and near-miraculous combination of spontaneity and compositional perfection, as well as the sheer diversity of cultures and peoples he documented and the momentous historical events to which he bore witness. But in the mid-1930s, he shifted his attention from still images to motion pictures, studying filmmaking first in New York, with help from Paul Strand among others, and then as an assistant to Jean Renoir.
After working on Renoir’s LA VIE EST À NOUS (1936) (he would later assist Renoir on A DAY IN THE COUNTRY and THE RULES OF THE GAME as well), he devoted himself to documenting the Spanish Civil War, directing three films in quick succession that chronicled and furthered the Spanish Republican cause: RETURN TO LIFE (1937), the recently rediscovered WITH THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE IN SPAIN (1937-38), and SPAIN WILL LIVE (1938). With the outbreak of WWII, Cartier-Bresson joined a unit whose mission was to document the conflict. After being captured by the Germans, spending nearly three years as a prisoner, and finally escaping in 1943, he soon turned his attention to a fourth film, THE RETURN (1945), which depicted the phenomenon of prisoners of war returning to their home countries.
Cartier-Bresson would only make two more films during the last six decades of his life: his visit to the U.S. in 1969-70 resulted in two short documentaries for CBS News, CALIFORNIA IMPRESSIONS and SOUTHERN EXPOSURES. But his life and career generated numerous cinematic ephemera, including filmic tributes and documentary portraits by the likes of National Film Board of Canada auteur Wolf Koenig and fellow photographers Robert Delpire, Cornell Capa, Sarah Moon, and others. This film series brings together films that feature Cartier-Bresson behind or in front of the camera.
Co-presented by the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, the International Center of Photography, and Magnum Photos.