Au hasard Balthazar Screen 21 articles

Au hasard Balthazar

1966

Au hasard Balthazar Poster
  • The film plucks out the roots of existence and presents us with a very morbidly beautiful flower of cinematic art... No film I have ever seen has come so close to convulsing my entire being as has "Au Hasard Balthazar." I'm not sure what kind of movie it is, and indeed it may be more pleasingly vulgar than I suggest, but it stands by itself on one of the loftiest pinnacles of artistically realized emotional experiences.

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    The Village Voice: Jonas Mekas
    February 26, 1970 | The Village Voice Film Guide (p. 27)

    We go to the movies, we discuss movies, and everything is fine. And then, suddenly, a movie like this one comes, and the whole perspective of cinema—the standard and the quality, as language, as art, and as articulation—shifts, and all the cinema that made us so happy on a day-by-day basis disappears into nothing. The seriousness, the substance, the bone, and the blood of life and art is reestablished again, for a brief moment, for one week, at the New Yorker.

  • His profoundly and unsentimentally religious vision and the severity and self-abnegation of his method set up certain expectations for any Bresson movie in relation to which Au Hasard, Balthazar looks like a sudden and gratifying relaxation in style. In fact, it is less austere (though possibly even more severe), than other Bresson films, and the multiplicity of things and themes (and things as theme), together with Bresson's most appealing hero, works for an unusual degree of audience empathy.

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    Artforum: Manny Farber
    May 1970 | Farber on Film (pp. 687-688)

    I think this is a superb movie for its original content, exhilarating editing and Bresson's Puritanical camera work, belt-high and wonderfully toned, that crates a deep, damp, weathered quality of centuries—old provincialism.

  • Robert Bresson's 1966 masterpiece defies any conventional analysis... Perhaps the greatest and most revolutionary of Bresson's films, Balthazar is a difficult but transcendently rewarding experience, never to be missed.

  • The effect could not be more different from that of other films (Disney's say, or Jaws) that centre around animals; Balthazar's death during a smuggling expedition, amidst a field of sheep, is both lyrical and entirely devoid of maudlin sentiment. Imbued with a dry, ironic sense of humour, the film is perhaps the director's most perfectly realised, and certainly his most moving.

  • A haunting, subtly disturbing, and thematically uncompromising portrait of man's innate cruelty and destructive impulses. Through the transfiguration of a mistreated animal as an allegorical symbol of virtue, purity, and redemption, Robert Bresson creates a visually spare and indelible film of startling intensity.

  • Save for L’Argent, Balthazar is Bresson’s richest, fullest, most complex film. Its pace is extraordinary (the first five minutes alone contain a fully realized and wonderful pre-story) and its form is epic (even though it’s only 95 minutes long).

  • To cut to the chase, Robert Bresson's heart-breaking and magnificent Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) is the supreme masterpiece by one of the greatest of 20th-century filmmakers. Bringing together all Bresson's highly developed ideas about acting, sound, and editing, as well as grace, redemption, and human nature, Balthazar is understated and majestic, sensuous and ascetic, ridiculous and sublime.

  • Bresson believed cinema could achieve the condition of art only if it did not mimic literature and theater. His aspiration was nothing less than pure cinema. That sounds daunting and dusty in the manner of three-hour art movies, but Bresson's films are models of aesthetic economy ("Balthazar" runs a fleet 95 minutes). Stripped of narrative fat and yet filled with meaningful event, the films possess a rigor that seems ascetic by our busy standards.

  • Godard’s famous claim that Au hasard Balthazar is “the world in an hour and a half” suggests how dense, how immense Bresson’s brief, elliptical tale about the life and death of a donkey is. The film’s steady accumulation of incident, characters, mystery, and social detail, its implicative use of sound, offscreen space, and editing, have the miraculous effect of turning the director’s vaunted austerity into endless plenitude, which is perhaps the central paradox of Bresson’s cinema.

  • It’s the crowning achievement of Bresson’s career, and, frankly, it might just be the greatest film ever made... Bresson's films are sacred artifacts that seem almost to exist outside the usual limitations of time and space. Au hasard Balthazar is cinema’s holy grail.

  • Bresson's 1966 masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar is a film about a donkey who embodies the essence of Marker's “partition.” And like Marker's sanctified chatter, Au Hasard Balthazar possesses a strictly balanced, bemused-unto-neigh-indifferent attitude toward delineating between the wry and the glum, the sacred and the profane. Separating those elements, Bresson seems to demonstrate, only robs each element of its consequence and mystery.

  • All of the ebullient praise always seems to butt up against the sheer and stubborn surface of the film itself. Balthazar is such a concise and economical film that such ovations seem to be answered – like the majestic crescendo of the Schubert piano sonata that accompanies the opening credits – with the braying of an ass. Balthazar is a deft, impassioned, and wrenching film, but it is also — emphatically, absurdly — a film about a donkey. Indeed, it hardly pretends to be much more.

  • One of the most stunning scenes [...is when] the runaway Balthazar is brought into a circus and introduced to the other animals in a sequence of cross-cuts that go back and forth between his gazing eyes and those of the other former denizens of the wilds. The scene condenses much of the complexity of interpretation in the film overall: we can, if we wish, read emotions, meanings, and even acts of empathy and communication in this ping-pong of looks from one animal to another.

  • Arguably Bresson's most tragic work (though neck-and-neck for that title with almost every film that followed), Au hasard Balthazar came at the exact midpoint of his feature filmmaking career. With the cool abstraction of The Trial of Joan of Arc behind him, Bresson revealed in Balthazar a more fluid yet wildly elliptical filmmaking style that would blossom throughout the rest of Bresson’s career.

  • It is now, for better or for worse, solely a masterpiece for secular melancholic cineastes and an exercise in futility for the pious Netflix user. Even the Schubert Sonata in A Major, bringing tears to single men at Facets, can be played by a child. That said, what a masterpiece! Cinema's most thorough estrangement of humanity, at the hand of our most enigmatic auteur: from Bresson's editing room, total war on the filmic conventions of emotional identification.

  • The sheer discomfort of this visual and aural construction is at the heart of Bresson’s craft. Filled with hidden meanings and the awful insinuations about the human mind, his work has a magical reverence for martyrdom and suffering. Bresson asks through his puzzling and dense formalism weighted moral questions that seemed seem to doubt fundamentally the innate goodness of man.

  • What often comes across in reviews as stiff, boring art movies are exactly the opposite: not empty but teeming, not cold but visceral, not dry but saturated. To turn oneself on to Bresson is to ruin oneself for most other movies, as you begin to wonder why so few of them are like Au Hasard Balthazar or Pickpocket really present, breathing, thinking. I’d call that a bargain.

  • What Balthazar experiences of human nature is both pure and limited: the embrace of a lonely young woman, the unprovoked attack of an angry young man, and the work of the farms whose owners worry over money. He is only a donkey, and therefore something much more.

  • Bresson never falls into melodrama, even at times when the tension is heightened: like when Gerard chases Marie out of a car as he tries to sexually advance on her. It’s a quiet scene—only Jean Wiener’s gentle piano score fills the ears. Bresson is brilliant in finding poetry rather than dismay in such moments and as in all of his films, one must look past the austerity to find the beauty.

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