Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
Au Hasard Balthazar
The sad life and death of Balthazar, a donkey, from an idyllic childhood surrounded by loving children, through adulthood as a downtrodden beast of burden. His life is paralleled with that of the girl who named him, and as she is humiliated by her sadistic lover, so he is beaten by his owner. But he finds a kind of peace when he is employed by an old miller who thinks he is a reincarnated saint... Written by Michael Brooke
Robert Bresson has an insane 7 films on the Sight and Sound list.
Now, I may or may not possess the Malick gene, the jury is still out, but having watched two Bressons now (this and Pickpocket) I'm almost certain I do not possess a Bresson gene.
Maybe...completely devoid of the Bresson gene.
This is, without a doubt, the main director that is so critically praised and universally loved and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why. To put it bluntly - these two films are shit. I know I'll catch some flack for that statement, but I stand by it wholeheartedly...for now. Maybe, down the road I'll come to see Au Hasard Balthazar in a new light.…
Please, please, please just read Matthew Ekstrom's review. I am far too teary to even think about writing anything about this film. Plus, I don't think that I could even write anything as perfect and beautiful as his review. 'Au Hasard Balthazar' is a truly powerful experience and one of the most beautiful films ever made. Now excuse me while I go cry my eyes out.
A very slow, very moving take on the burden that is life, Bresson's classic assigns a good deal of its audiences' sympathies to the simple eyes of a donkey. In the hands of a great director he makes for a brilliant protagonist, and that's exactly what Bresson proves himself (this is my first of his). There's a particularly majestic scene that sees our hero exchanging glances with a series of caged circus animals; it's impossible to describe with words just how much it affects you. Bresson has the ability to imbue his scenes with remarkably underscored meaning, from the emotional intensity behind every glance to the many religious parallels the story draws. I'm not sure I was quite as open to it as I should have been—certainly a fault of my mood rather than the film—but the achievement here is undeniably stunning.
"Au Hasard Balthazar" explores the unfathomable cruelty of human existence and the cowardice that creates a failure to love. And yet at the same time, this film, which reveals everything I care to know of evil, seems to spring forth from a boundless well of empathy within its creator.
This is the work of a truly great artist, perhaps the great film artist. I cannot imagine watching it and coming away unchanged.
"Besides, he's a saint."
I had no idea Au Hasard Balthazar was about a sad donkey. I had just heard the name a lot throughout the years and heard it was a touching story. I've never really been pulled in by stories about animals, but there's something soulful about this particular film that sets it apart from the easy sentimentality and schmaltz of the other films about animals I've seen. Despite the touching story, I can't lie about the fact that it put me to sleep multiple times.
It's really the acting and editing that put me off the most. The acting looked like it was mostly done by amateurs, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but…
''Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished (...) because this film is really the world in an hour and a half.'' -Jean Luc Godard
The statement above is completely true; Au Hasard Balthazar may be the definition of masterful film-making in its simplest form. It follows a saint-like donkey, Balthazar as he is passed on to different owners who both treat him - in turn - with harshness and love. The film shows life as it is, the hopes, dreams and love of a young girl who cares deeply for Balthazar and their close relationship. Her many aspirations progressively become shattered by the brutality of life and because she is incessantly abused by her lover; seemingly losing all…
The awkwardness & blankness of the acting took a little getting used to (especially in the case of that bastard street-tough), though I guess the blankness lent the misery and evil visited upon the people (& donkey) in this movie a quotidian banality that made these acts simultaneously easier to accept & harder to bear. For example, those damn pans or cut-aways whenever poor Marie's about to be assaulted or (more specifically) acquiesces to some crude asshole's advances; never has a directorial move so unfailingly tasteful been so effectively devastating.
& while I found the human acting stage-y to a fault, that Bresson got that kind of "performance" out of a donkey is as much a testament to his directorial skill as…
Well no, this was a (surprising) letdown for me - and I don't even think it's about high expectations and/or me holding it up for the right occasion. While Bresson's A MAN ESCAPED is a masterpiece, and PICKPOCKET a technically perfect film, he seems to arrive at a challange he can't manage in AU HASARD BALTHAZAR, a film that manages to show exactly how and where his strategies seem to fail.
Of course, the film is original and passionate enough to be well worth seeing but after hearing that this was one of the director's essential works I was truly surprised to find that I found it deeply flawed.
First of all, the film isn't even about the donkey even…
I don't know exactly why, but this film has definitely stuck with me since my initial viewing. Sad and beautiful.
This was a second time watch, because the film really does deserve multiple viewings to appreciate how good it is. A poetic and extraordinary masterpiece about existence. It deserves every bit of praise it gets.
The final scene is both beautiful and sad.
Every bit as devastatingly beautiful and poignant as advertised. I can't wait to dig deeper in Bresson's work.
Saddest movie ever*
*See my review of "The Straight Story"
Oh, pobre Balthazar.
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