Au Hasard Balthazar

1966

Drama

4
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 86%
IMDb Rating 7.9 10 14568

Synopsis


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780.43 MB
1204*720
French
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 35 min
P/S 1 / 8
1.5 GB
1792*1072
French
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 35 min
P/S 1 / 11

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by allyjack 9 / 10

One of the most memorable endings in cinema

The film's ending is one of the most memorable in cinema, and achieves an eerie grace, consistent with its almost unique tone - allusively Biblical and allegorical, yet resistant to specific meanings and interpretations. The plot is a narrative of human cruelty and escalating despair, but always with enough mystery in the motivation to ward off easy condemnations; and perhaps even to indicate divine guidance. Throughout, Wiazemsky seizes on the donkey as a symbol of transcendence(her mother calls it a saint in the end); it's formally christened at the beginning and undergoes something approaching a formal funeral, all of which gives its life the contours of a spiritual journey of discovery. The narrative encompasses both revelations (the interlude in the fair; new tortures like the mean old man who starves and beats him) and retrenchment; both life's austerity, its roots in servitude, and its enormous potential dignity. Never was a donkey filmed so evocatively - but as always with Bresson, the simplicity is thrilling too - there's no false artistry here; no dubious anthropomorphism. A necessary film, and I'm amazed that I'm the first one to be commenting on it here.

Reviewed by mmmopens 10 / 10

The zenith of purity in the cinema...

No matter how much one may love the cinema, purity is something that we rarely find on the screen. Wonder, yes. Spectacle, emotion by the bucketload, but purity, very rarely.

And Au Hasard Balthazar is the zenith of purity in the cinema. Through this matchless masterpiece, Bresson has shown us what the cinema might have been if it did not have the crushing obligation to make money.

For many years I regarded this as the greatest film ever made - and it still could deserve that epithet. What is certain is that with Balthazar, Bresson entered a form of expression in cinema that is so profound that it almost burns you to watch it.

Of course it's not about a donkey, but the sins of the world. And it is a measure of Bresson's staggering achievement that at the end of the film you can actually believe that you have witnessed the sins of the world. And it leaves you not shocked, nor angry - though both emotions are entirely appropriate - but numb with a desperate sadness.

On top of all of this, it is also the film which is the subject of probably the finest piece of film criticism in the English language - Andrew Sarris' long and wonderful review of it in The Village Voice on its initial New York release. That ends, 'it stands alone atop one of the loftiest pinnacles of artistically realised emotional experiences.'

And so it does.

Reviewed by Cosmoeticadotcom 10 / 10

Great

The greatness of Robert Bresson's 1966 black and white film, Au Hasard Balthazar (which, translated, means something like Randomly Balthazar or By Chance Balthazar), comes not from only one aspect of it, nor even just a few. Virtually every aspect of the film reeks and resonates greatness, although, despite this being the near full consensus opinion of film lovers and critics alike, it is one of the most poorly understood films I've ever read the criticism of. This is because so many aspects of the film are based upon its most superficial qualities, rather than those deeper and more essential, even as the film achieves this depth in only 95 minutes. This economy occurs because the film focuses not on the superfluities of living, but only those things with resonance and meaning, the important and poetic moments that distill all else. And, oftentimes, those things with meaning are not the expected architectures of the human face, but those of other parts of the human body, like hands, backs, and human postures; all of which evoke connections and depths that would likely be unthinkable to cogitate on in films by other directors.

But before I get into this film's essence, let me synopsize the narrative. The film is a picaresque 'animal film,' and I am an animal lover, so I am emotionally inclined to be favorable to any such film. Yet, when I write this fact of the film's nature, I do not mean it in the way a film like My Dog Skip (a great 'animal' film aimed at children) is an 'animal film.' Au Hasard Balthazar goes above and beyond even that high level of art, for many reasons; yet one of the most manifest is that it is shorn of all sentimentalism, even that sort which is meant in a positive sense. The film follows the life and death of a male donkey in the French countryside. Named and christened Balthazar by his first owner- a young girl named Marie, the donkey grows up, changes owners several times, and eventually ages, and bleeds nearly to death, seemingly dying on a hilltop, surrounded by a flock of sheep, after being accidentally shot at night, when he is stolen by the film's villain, to transport illegal good across the French border. But, before that denouement, we get to see many slices of life: that of the donkey, its owners, and the people that are around it in the small village; even those things that are beyond the purview of the beast's impassive eye....Au Hasard Balthazar is nothing short of a masterpiece; a work of art of the highest order; amongst the greatest dozen or two films ever made, and on par with the same highly ranked works of art by the greatest writers, poets, playwrights, musicians, and painters. It also points out convincingly why art is better than religion or philosophy in dealing with the 'big questions' in life, for art has an economy neither of the other two pursuits possess- witness Balthazar's death. How many words would be spilt in a religious text or philosophic tract to distill what the mere sight of a dying donkey amidst sheep does? Art is models of the real that encode and decode the real while elevating the very process of that encoding and decoding. Art (and especially film and its even more abstract cousin, poetry) can penetrate far more deeply, and with far less distraction than any other human media, into the essentials of existence. Art can elucidate these matters with eloquence and profundity; and art, and only art, can do so in the hands of a great artist.

I give you Robert Bresson.

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