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Au Hasard Balthazar (The Criterion Collection)
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No matter how you approach the film, only the most cold-hearted viewer will be immune to Balthazar's fate. And if you're not sure what to make of it all, this superb Criterion DVD offers two essential bonus features to guide you toward a greater understanding of Bresson's approach to cinema: Film scholar and devoted "Bressonian" Donald Richie offers his astute observations in a 2004 video interview, and in an in-depth French TV appearance from 1966, Bresson talks at length about Au hazard Balthazar along with fellow directors Louis Malle and Jean-Luc Godard, and members of the film's cast and crew. This is a remarkable document from a bygone era, when "art film" was at its peak, and directors (especially French ones) were eager to discuss the intellectual significance of their work. Kudos to Criterion for including this archival gem of film appreciation. --Jeff Shannon
- Video interview with film scholar Donald Richie
- "Un metteur en ordre: Robert Bresson," a 1966 French TV Program abou the film featuring Bresson, Jean-Luc Goddard, Louis Malle and others
- Original theatrical trailer
- A new essay by Bresson scholar James Quandt
Top Customer Reviews
Balthazar moves from owner to owner. He's often beaten and kicked. He plows the ground, hauls logs, delivers bread. In a brief moment of glory, he's trained to do number tricks in a provincial circus. His owner finds him and takes him back. Once, he finds his way to the farm where he was born and Marie embraces him. He works circling a well, drawing water up to be bottled by a miserly, cynical farm owner who doesn't feed him well. One night Marie flees her parents and comes to the man's farm. He takes her in, looks at her wet dress, finally offers her some money. Marie pauses but turns him down. She says that her father has had to give their last cent to the creditors. "That's what happens when you place honor above everything," the man tells her. "He's spent his life creating obligations for himself. What for?...Do I have any obligations?Read more ›
I will offer this advice, however: all you should need to read to urge you to view this film is Jeff Shannon's superb editorial review above. All I knew before first watching this film was that I loved the other films of Bresson I had seen and that film experts considered this work to be a masterpiece. Fortunately I didn't know anything else about it (except for, perhaps, a cursory outline of the story) and most fortunately I didn't know anything about the ending. So my advice to you is: DO NOT READ ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT THIS FILM. Just watch it. You do not want to read anything that talks about the ending (and I won't say a word about it here myself). Just watch the film. There will be plenty of time to read the many excellent essays on the film out there after you have watched it (...).
Others have mentioned the extras that come on the disc. They are indeed excellent. Also, the transfer is exceptionally beautiful (from the Criterion website: "This new, high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from the 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System. To maintain optimal image quality through the compression process, the picture on this dual-layer DVD-9 was encoded at the highest-possible bit rate for the quantity of materials included").Read more ›
Bresson was (in)famous for his unique style of filmmaking. By the time he directed 'Balthazar', Bresson had perfected it to such a degree, that this film stands as the most perfect expression of his unique vision of the world. Bresson is not a easy 'watch'. Rather than show you everything or tell you how to feel, he makes the view work for their rewards. And indeed, watching a Bresson film is a rewarding experience. None more so than 'Au Hasard Balthazar'.
By now you know that the film is 'about' the life of a donkey and it's various owners. But it's about so much more than that. It is a deeply mysterious film that only deepens the more you watch it. Indeed, watching this film is a transcendental experience. I don't want to reveal too much more, you just have to see the film for yourself and decide.
As for the Criterion DVD, there is a reason they have earned their reputation as the 'Rolls Royce' of DVD comapanies. It is superb. The transfer to DVD is stunning. Seeing the re-release of this film on the big screen last year was the single most memorable cinematic event of 2004 for me, but the Criterion transfer actually improves on it! Beautiful work. Although the number of extras on the disc is small, they are terrific. The best is the inclusion of a 1966 French TV program with Bresson, Godard, Louis Malle and others discussing this film.
'Au Hasard Balthazar' is definitely in my Top Ten Greatest Films of All Time list and to see Criterion do it justice is terrific. If you have any serious interest in film and have yet to see this, then go and pick this disc up.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am not a big Bresson fan, but I have to say that everything that's irritating or mannered in his other movies just works like magic in this one. Read morePublished 1 month ago by herbert west
Yet once again, attack of the killer hype. Described by many critics and film-fans as one of the best films ever made, I think I simply had heard too much and expected too much... Read morePublished 3 months ago by K. Gordon
Beautifully shot, I was wrapped up in this story. Beautiful, touching, brilliant.Published 5 months ago by Jak
Incredibly moving depiction of innocence and suffering and portrayal of Christ.Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
highly recommended, though difficult story-line and thematically mysterious - enlightening reviews online.Published 8 months ago by john rooney
The donkey is abused from start to finish, even while Marie is watching her boyfriend do this. This film could not be made today by current humane practices.Published 9 months ago by alan
This is the type of film almost all the enjoyment comes in the days after watching. If you are the type of person who likes to tackle a tough challenge without anybody else's... Read morePublished 12 months ago by mr. contrarian
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