Au hasard Balthazar The Criterion Collection
Criterion Collection, Special Edition
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A profound masterpiece from one of the most revered filmmakers in the history of cinema, 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 humankind. But despite his powerlessness, he accepts his fate nobly. Through Bresson’s unconventional approach to composition, sound, and narrative, this simple story becomes a moving parable about purity and transcendence.
Blu-ray Special Edition Features
- New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Interview from 2004 with film scholar Donald Richie
- “Un metteur en ordre: Robert Bresson,” a 1966 French television program about the film, featuring director Robert Bresson, filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle, and members of Au hasard Balthazar’s cast and crew
- Plus: An essay by film scholar James Quandt
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Everything else after that is sheer pessimistic torture in which we view a set of seemingly disjointed scenes come and go - only seemingly disjointed, however, for these are seen from Balthazar the Donkey's viewpoint. We never get the full story, the humans are only incidental in terms of plot - but they are essential symbols of the vices and evils and weaknesses of humanity - all of which are witnessed, and ultimately take their toll on poor, innocent, kind and loving Balthazar.
Half way through I thought I wasn't understanding the film. Then it all became crystal clear as language exploded in lengthy scenes of ugly exposition, revealing the darkest, most pathetic and irredeemable aspects of humanity.
Not light viewing. Not something I want to see again any time soon. And definitely a work of genius.
Still as far as Criterion's release goes fans will be thrilled as both the picture and sound quality restorations are impeccable and also included is a fold out containing an essay by James Quandt that I found unconvincing but tries to extoll the many virtues of the film and why it is deserving of high acclaim. The special features are pretty spare and not as interesting as in other Criterion releases but overall this is a good release of the film.