AU HASARD BALTHAZAR: DVD
Reared in the French countryside by doting young children, the donkey Balthazar is soon put into bondage before spurning his master and finding his way to the loving Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), a poor, beautiful girl whose parallel destiny sees her abused by the village rogues, drunks and delinquents. Like Balthazar, she finds it hard to resist these hostile men, especially the vicious Gerard (Francois Lafarge), who also attacks the donkey out of twisted jealousy.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Highly praised and awarded in Venice, this film is often seen as a companion piece to Bresson's Mouchette, made the following year. Balthazar is a donkey on whom Bresson bestows a sainthood of sorts, putting him in a setting of humans who are either cruel idiots or weaklings, or in one case, proud to the point of stupidity. For all its cinematic virtues - Bresson's use of non-actors, for instance, to give a 'purity' to the film and invite us to provide all the emotive responses without being spoonfed - the film ends up playing as an episodic sermon, with odd plot points that don't connect.
Many have praised this as a piece of essential cinema, and while it has merit, I wouldn't go so far. The donkey is certainly well used, and Bresson has no intention of making it a cartoon figure, supposedly reacting to the slings and arrows of misfortune that befall him. He endures, and he passes no judgement. Hence the Saintliness ...
The film does maintain a powerful mood throughout, a kind of stringency, and the fate of the humans fades into insignificance as the film draws to a bleak close.
Published: June 5, 2008
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AU HASARD BALTHAZAR: DVD (PG)
CAST: Anne Wiazemsky, Francois Lafarge, Philippe Asselin, Nathalie Joyaut, Walter Green, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Pierre Klossowski
PRODUCER: Mag Bodard
DIRECTOR: Robert Bresson
SCRIPT: Robert Bresson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ghislain Cloquet
EDITOR: Raymond Lamy
MUSIC: Jean Wiener
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Pierre Charbonniere
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9; mono; B&W
SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the scenes documentary; trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
DVD RELEASE: May 5, 2008