A profound masterpiece from one of the most revered filmmakers in the history of cinema, director Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar follows the donkey Balthazar as he is passed from owner to owner, some kind and some cruel but all with motivations beyond his understanding. Balthazar, whose life parallels that of his first keeper, Marie, is truly a beast of burden, suffering the sins of man. But despite his powerlessness, he accepts his fate nobly. Through Bresson’s unconventional approach to composition, sound, and narrative, this seemingly simple story becomes a moving parable of purity and transcendence. —The Criterion Collection
Often described as a “painter” of films, French director Robert Bresson was one of cinema’s greatest anomalies. He directed only 13 films over the course of 40 years, but these films were in a category all their own, minimalist works that tended towards radical (and sometimes controversial) reinterpretations of such classical sources as Diderot, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. An expert manipulator of narrative incident, Bresson focused on seemingly incidental details of the stories he told and used amateur actors (whom he called ‘models’) lacking any trace of theatricality, creating searching meditations on the quality of transcendence, spirituality, and alienation. Of the artistic influences inherent in his work – perhaps most apparent in his belief that the cinema is a fusion of music and painting, not the theatre and photography – Bresson once said “Art is not a luxury, but a vital necessity.”
The year of Bresson’s birth has often been subject to debate; his biographer, Philippe… read more
"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."
In our annual poll, we pair our favorite new films of 2012 with older films seen in the same year to create fantastic double features.
A look at the second, revised edition of James Quandt’s crucial anthology, Robert Bresson.
The complete retrospective will carry on touring North America through May.
Two similar and mysterious moments from Au hasard Balthazar and Une femme douce. What’s going on here?
An unexpected detail in Robert Bresson’s 1966 masterpiece, Au hasard Balthazar.
Introducing a new series of essays on the “tightly-packed excess” of Robert Bresson.
A look at the best posters for the films of Robert Bresson, to coincide with the Film Forum retrospective.
As previously mentioned in these dispatches (see #1 and #2), my chief sources of delight among the feature-length films shown at the 2009
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
Robert Bresson wrote and filmed this study in human folly that might have been titled the end we all die as the family and… read review
I would give this film 3 1/2 stars. It is a noble effort by Bresson but marred by his insistence on getting “natural” performances by amateurs. From what I have gleaned, it took numerous takes to get… read review
I’ve been very late in discovering this poetic, philosophical masterpiece. Bresson shows the whole life in 95 minutes, life of all mankind, which is tied with pain and misery. The key point is the… read review