• 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.

21 comments

  • By FG
    August 16, 2012
    06:33 PM

    The most overrated film of the most overrated director in the history of cinema.Of course,according to me.I salute cinema authorities.
    Reply
    • By TheDirector
      August 16, 2012
      08:51 PM

      Someone is a Rude Gus.
    • By bluesoul
      August 17, 2012
      06:46 AM

      If Bresson is the most overrated director in the history of cinema, then what are Welles, Spielberg or even Ford (they show his (not to mention the other 2) movies weekly during day here, while Bresson has never been shown on most tv stations in the continent i live in. Overrated my ass, neglected more likely...
  • By Elgatonyc
    August 16, 2012
    09:25 PM

    "Ted" is the most overrated film by the most overrated director in the history of cinema. Of course, according to me. If you hated Bresson's "Mouchette", I could understand that because the characters aren't very likeable. "A Man Escaped" was intriguing but "Balthazar" was pure genius (which is rarely appreciated in its own lifetime). I intend to go on discovering Bresson's films but "Bathazar" set the bar pretty high, imo.
    Reply
  • 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 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 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 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 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