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Critics reviews
The Black Stallion
Carroll Ballard United States, 1979
The movie is a wonder; if you haven’t seen it, you must discover for yourself. This tale of a boy and his horse takes us from a Mediterranean shipwreck to an all-American midwestern town, circa 1940s, and manages to somehow find a perfect balance between lyrical meditation and exciting human drama. It is one of the great so-called children’s films of all-time: thrilling, nurturing, moving.
April 06, 2018
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The Black Stallion remains more than a rousing adventure—it’s an enchantment. The exploits of its boy hero, Alec (Kelly Reno), and his mighty black horse, the Black (Cass-Olé), overflow with primal and poetic sensations. Ballard’s work is emotionally as well as visually ravishing, whether the duo are struggling to survive the fiery wreck of a tramp steamer in storm-beaten seas, galloping across a desert island, or upending a storybook vision of small-city America circa 1946.
July 14, 2015
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A curious artifact from the unstable transitional period as the New Hollywood Cinema ceded to the early blockbuster era, the film owes the storybook simplicity of its visuals to the crystalline children’s films of Albert Lamorisse—most specifically 1952’s White Mane… The breakout effort from now-ubiquitous cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, The Black Stallion is a relentless procession of lavishly framed images, each one a marvel of compact visual storytelling.
July 14, 2015
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It’s one of the most purely beautiful children’s films ever made, but more than that, it’s an example of how deftly employed non-verbal cinematic techniques—patient and lucid visuals, nimble editing, emotive but never overly manipulative musical cues—can not only convey narrative (even to young audiences), but can in fact enhance the weight and meaning of the story.
August 06, 2013
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Solely by manipulating static close-ups, [Ballard] can create high drama and breathless momentum out of a visit by a cobra on the sand, and when the boy finally rides the horse, a startling aerial shot has the vertiginous – and ecstatically transcendent – quality of the sudden shifts of rhythm in Stravinsky.
March 15, 1980
Some of the opening scenes are a little too postcard pretty, but the courtship of a boy and a horse stranded together on a tropical island is portrayed with such depth that the feelings carry over magnificently when the two return to prosaic civilization, where Ballard must work without the benefit of breathtaking landscapes. The film represents a studied, sophisticated approach to instinctual emotions: it’s carefully, calculatingly naive, and amazingly it works.
October 13, 1979
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