20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
The Passion Of The "Donkey",
This review is from: Au Hasard Balthazar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Robert Bresson's "Au hasard Balthazar" should not (and I don't think anyone has) be viewed as a political movie. It's not a pro-animal rights movie, despite it basically being told from the point of view of a donkey.
"Au hasard Balthazar" is one of the great religious movies of all-time. My own list would include Pier Paolo Pasolini's "The Gospel According To St. Matthew" and Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" but yet, Bresson doesn't throw the religious undertones in our face. In fact, if someone missed it, I wouldn't be surprised.
We follow a donkey from birth until death. Along the way it is transfered from owner to owner, where it is met with a harsh life. Constantly beaten and abused what can the donkey do? It exist merely to serve no matter what. Some happiness is found along the way, when the donkey is with a young girl, Marie (Anne Wiazemsky) but these moments are brief.
Bresson was a director who liked to strip his stories down to their most basic elements. He didn't use big names, didn't have big lavish sets, and perhaps along with Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky, devoted his career to making films dealing with existential themes. Although you could argue Bresson had a more cheerful view. But all of his films tackle big subjects. His final film "L' Argent" is based on a Tolstoy story, "Pickpocket" is loosely based on Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment", and "A Man Escaped" must have been deeply personal for him, since he was a POW during WW2.
And for a director who worked many times with non-actors, you couldn't get further away from an actor than working with a donkey. Now I know, a movie about a donkey may not seem like a movie that can involve a large audience. But Bresson does just that. The donkey, it should be noted, never becomes animated. It is a character in the story, but never takes on human dimensions. It doesn't speak, tell jokes (do you know what the one donkey told the other donkey when they broke up? Your a jacka@@!), sing or dance. Yet there is compassion to be felt for the animal.
For those who have yet to see this film I think you may be surprised at just how involving the movie can be. And if you've never seen a Robert Bresson film, this will be a treat.
The movie's score consist of Schubert's Piano Sonata No.20 and was filmmed by Ghislain Cloquet. Perhaps best known for his work on Woody Allen's "Love and Death", Jacques Demy's "Donkey Skin" and "The Young Girls of Rochefort" and Alain Resnais's masterpiece "Night and Fog". *** 1\2 out of *****
Bottom-line: "Au hasard Balthazar" is one of the Robert Bresson's most touching films. A film with strong religious undertones that aren't forced upon the viewer.
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Initial post: Jan 22, 2008 5:19:57 PM PST
Kip Montgomery says:
How do you give this 3 stars, with what you've written? You've written a five-star review and given it three stars. Makes absolutely no sense. And you're a "top" reviewer????
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