• Bresson_baby_donkey_large

    Every ten years since 1952, the world-renowned film magazine Sight & Sound has polled a wide international selection of film critics and directors on what they consider to be the ten greatest works of cinema ever made, and then compiled the results. The top fifty movies in the 2012 critics’ list, unveiled August 1, include twenty-five Criterion titles. In this series, we highlight those classic films.

    It’s the simplest yet most complex of films, a tale of human frailty, kindness, and avarice seen through the eyes of a donkey. Many feel that Robert Bresson’s singular cinema of abstract spirituality and pared-down emotion reached its apex with Au hasard Balthazar. This overwhelming contemplation of lost innocence is transcendent without a trace of bombast, austere but never detached, and shot with such directness and edited with such scalpel-sharp precision as to make the most fine-tuned thriller seem slack by comparison. It’s no surprise that other filmmakers have been as bowled over by Balthazar as critics and scholars. Even upon its first release, Bresson’s peers knew something monumental was on view, as you can see in the following clip, from a 1966 French television program titled Un metteur en ordre: Robert Bresson (available in its entirety on our DVD special edition). In it, director Louis Malle, writer Marguerite Duras, and director Jean-Luc Godard (who once called Au hasard Balthazar “the world in an hour and a half”) sing the praises of Bresson’s film, while host Roger Stéphane says that thanks to it, “something’s been transformed in the art of cinema.”

    If you have never seen Au hasard Balthazar, the best place to start is the beginning. In three-and-a-half delicate minutes, Bresson beautifully and subtly renders the idyllic youth of both the donkey and the children who treat him with tenderness. As the film progresses, we realize this is a lost paradise for both Balthazar and Marie, the girl he is closest to. Like the animal, she will prove to be a martyr, quietly suffering for the sins of others. But in this sequence, there is peace, and there are even glimmers of first love.

34 comments

  • By FG
    August 17, 2012
    07:59 AM

    I was not being rude,only I explained my opininon.'Bresson has never been shown on most tv stations'(it is not important).The important part:film is the sixteenth,Haneke's favourite film.I think that the film has been exaggerated by authorities.I don't able to make contact with this film,as with other Bresson films.It seems to me pretty strange.Diary of a Country Priest is the only movie I liked Bresson's.
    Reply
  • By Batzomon
    August 17, 2012
    08:35 PM

    I found this film very cold, but that's really Bresson's style. I prefer Diary of a Country Priest and L'argent for his unflinching eye towards the cruel humanity. And to be honest, nothing is crueler than not respecting a little jackass.
    Reply
  • By FG
    August 18, 2012
    05:28 AM

    Bresson's style is very well explained on Criterion's Bresson page.I don't like his style.Dull,pale and absolutely boring.Whereas I love Tarkovsky's films.
    Reply
  • By bluesoul
    August 18, 2012
    07:10 AM

    How often a movie is shown on tv stations is very much an important criteria regarding media exposure and someone being overrated. If you show Welles, Ford, Spielberg 10.000 times on daily tv and you maybe show Bresson/Tarkovsky/Bergman/Godard movies combined maybe 10 times in 20 years (in some countries not even once) then you have a serious discrepancy between showing one kind of cinema and not showing another more arthouse oriented. The fact that other great filmmakers adore him so much only speaks volumes to his relevance and greatness, not being overrated. Overrated is when the media only pays attention to Hollywood (old or new) and totally ignores the european filmmakers and autheurs of the same time. So spare me with the overratedness, its doesnt stand any ground....
    Reply
  • By FG
    August 18, 2012
    12:13 PM

    Anyway,I didn't talk about the media.I talk about film critics,cinema authorities,directors etc.Status of media is apparent.The media isn't worth talking about this situation.Well,if 'underrated' word only regarding media,I used wrong word.
    Reply
  • By TheDirector
    August 23, 2012
    08:24 AM

    Actually, overratedness has nothing to do with how much something is shown. Overplayed. Stairway to Heaven could be called overplayed, but its not overrated. It is /that/ good. Orson Welles is /that/ good, but I wouldn't call him overplayed either: how often do you hear about one of his films that isn't Citizen Kane, Magnificent Ambersons, Lady from Shanghai or Touch of Evil? Regardless, it depends how you view art and fiction and everything. Welles for one hated symbolism, so he never enjoyed some of the Europeans. Then there's people like Bresson who operate almost entirely through symbolism. It's a clash of tastes and styles.
    Reply
  • By FG
    August 23, 2012
    11:45 AM

    In general,I agree with your comments.But,all I know Bresson isn't symbolist.I have seen 6 Bresson films.I can't say such a thing.
    Reply
  • By Shaun
    August 23, 2012
    04:49 PM

    Stepping into a "room" constructed to honor a man only to say how much you hate him is kind of rude; however, opinion away! (I've verbed "opinion" and as luck would have it, "verb" as well). Anyway - for me L'argent or perhaps Man Escaped or Balthazar or Mouchette is his masterpiece. If you love Bresson, you love him a lot. Hey, that's a good line for a commercial!
    Reply
  • By FG
    August 23, 2012
    08:09 PM

    I saw A Man Escaped three days ago.Because I saw that this film was in the my favourite director's(Nuri Bilge Ceylan) top 10.Along with 'Diary of A Country Priest',I liked it,too.But then,I don't able to love Bresson's genre.I think I misunderstood again.I didn't say that I hate Bresson.I respect him very much.As for me,Bresson shouldn't be handled in a same category in which exist Ozu,Tarkovsky,Antonioni,Bergman.I only think and say.
    Reply
    • By Batzomon
      September 01, 2012
      12:39 AM

      I enjoyed A Man Escaped and L'Argent, so Bresson's style works for me with the right story.
  • By T.A. Epley
    August 27, 2012
    04:26 PM

    Bresson isn't for everyone, just as Antonioni isn't for everyone. Either you feel empathy for a Director's sensability, or you do not. Alienation is a common theme in both they're work, Antonioni presents emotional protagonists in an alienating world. Bresson presents Alienated characters in an emotional world. Whether the viewer is alienated by one, the other, both, or neither, is neither here nor there. Nothing I'm writing makes any sense (or sensablilty), I NEED COFFEE. bReAkDoWnnnnn...
    Reply
  • By ttg
    August 28, 2012
    07:49 PM

    Bergman transcends category. Period.
    Reply
    • By FG
      August 28, 2012
      09:15 PM

      For me is Tarkovsky.Bergman's quote:"My discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream."
  • By ttg
    August 29, 2012
    08:00 AM

    No doubt Tarkovsky was that for Bergman. Everyone of note has had an idol or mentor, but admiration for another's work does not mean it is superior to ones own. Tarkovsky is bloodless. Bergman is life itself.
    Reply
    • By FG
      August 29, 2012
      10:09 AM

      'Everyone of note has had an idol or mentor, but admiration for another's work does not mean it is superior to ones own'(it is ok,no problem in this part).'Tarkovsky is bloodless.'(I am very surprised for this comment,think about what you're saying,again and again,Tarkovsky's films captures the very essence of the Russian soul,special depth exists on Tarkovsky films,Bergman is northerner,therefore he is cold-blooded and calm,his films too.I think exactly opposite.Tarkovksy is life itself.I don't think you comprehend Tarkovsky films.Bloodless!?
  • By ttg
    August 29, 2012
    10:38 AM

    I need to revisit Tarkovsky on your endorsement. Thank you.
    Reply
  • By ttg
    August 29, 2012
    04:32 PM

    Which of Tarkovsky's films would you recommend?
    Reply
    • By FG
      August 29, 2012
      04:48 PM

      Especially,Andrei Rublev.
  • By ttg
    August 29, 2012
    05:45 PM

    Really! I own this one. It's been awhile but I'll give it another try. I remember it as a bit overlong and lacking in drama. I never thought you would have recommended this one. I thought it would be one that I had not seen. I had especially looked forward to this one the first time around because of my love for Russian art and literature and the history of the Church, but remember being disappointed in the film. Will watch it tonight and get back to you.
    Reply
  • By FG
    August 29, 2012
    06:52 PM

    I'm Turkish.Frankly,My English is inefficient to talk about this film in detail.First,thanks for considering my opinion.I wasn't expecting such a response from you.I chose this film.Because,Tarkovsky desire to focus on the history of Russian,I mean this film about Russian soul.For the rest,this is my favourite Tarkovsky film.I could have chosen Nostalghia.But Andrei Rublev was more dominant.'lacking in drama'(if you mean:excitement,amen)You had dissapointed in the film though you give importance to Russian art.This is very surprising for me.According to me,Andrei Rublev is a flawless Russian epic,kind of a thick Russian novel.
    Reply
    • By ttg
      August 31, 2012
      04:20 PM

      The film was better than I had remembered, but still a bit too long. Just ordered 'Nostalghia' and 'The Sacrifice' to further explore Tarkovsky.
  • By FG
    August 31, 2012
    06:51 PM

    In my opinion,Tarkovsky's latest film 'The Sacrifice' is a bit Bergmanesque.Nostalghia is better choice than The Sacrifice.Additionally,Nostalghia is Tarkovsky's favourite film of their own films.
    Reply
    • By ttg
      September 01, 2012
      08:25 AM

      Have you seen 'Ararat'?
  • By FG
    September 01, 2012
    10:02 AM

    No,I've heard for the first time.
    Reply
  • By FG
    September 01, 2012
    10:24 AM

    I've just looked into this film on Internet.Just to ask that because I'm Turkish?I don't know much about the Armenian Genocide.But,in this respect,I trust Orhan Pamuk.
    Reply
    • By ttg
      September 01, 2012
      01:31 PM

      Yes, I mentioned it because you are Turkish and also because I thought is was a very good film with multiple story lines including the making of a film within the film that involves Turkish history. It did not receive high praise from the critics, but I enjoyed it very much.
  • By Barry Moore
    July 22, 2013
    07:34 PM

    Mention should be made of the singular enchantment of the film's opening credits, where Schubert meets a braying donkey. Bresson is so often regarded as austere, but what one remembers from this troubling masterpiece is its sensual immanence, a physicality and earthiness that is at once tender and implacable. Here, a discerning, disciplined artist has created a field where cruelty and the fragility of life are transmuted by an uncommon intelligence into a thing of beauty and wonder.
    Reply