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Criterion Collection: Au Hasard Balthazar [Import USA Zone 1]
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Détails sur le produit
Extraits de l'émission "Pour le plaisir" (11 juin 1966 - 50')
Descriptions du produit
Description du produit
Revered director Robert Bresson's celebrated masterpiece is the seemingly simple yet profoundly moving and deeply affecting tale of Balthazar, a donkey in rural France. Passed from owner to owner, in turn treated kindly and cruelly, always inhabiting a world beyond his control, Balthazar exists as a beast of burden, suffering for the sins of man. But through his silence and powerlessness as well as Bresson's masterly touch - his trajectory becomes a stirring, transcendental allegory of purity and hope. A film unlike any other, Au Hasard Balthazar was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and has rightly taken its place in the pantheon of greatest French films ever made.
Già compagno di giochi, durante le loro vacanze in un paese basco, di un bimbo parigino Jacquese dei suoi piccoli amici, l'asino Balthazar (è così che l'avevano battezzato) diventa, quando il fanciullo torna a Parigi, proprietà di una coetanea, Maria. Legata a Jacques da un'infantile "patto d'amore", costei, ormai adolescente, suscita la bramosia di Gèrard, un "blouson noir" sempre circondato da teppisti suoi pari. Indispettita con Jacques, tornato dopo anni in paese, e subito ripartito, Maria vende Balthazar alla proprietaria del negozio in cui Gèrard serve come garzone. Nelle mani del ragazzaccio (che riesce anche a sedurre Maria), il povero ciuco subisce ogni sorta d'angherie, fino a quando non viene dato a un alcoolizzato, Arnold. Perito Arnold per ubriachezza, Balthazar finisce in un circo, dove viene esibito come ciuco matematico, di lì, nelle mani di un avaro fabbricante di acqua minerale, che lo aggioga alla ruota di un pozzo, infine, di nuovo in possesso di Maria. Allo scopo di scagionare il padre della ragazza da una grave accusa, Jacques torna in paese. Rivede Maria: i giovani sembrano intenzionati a sposarsi. Recatasi da Gèrard per troncare definitivamente la loro relazione, Maria viene violentata da lui e dai "suoi", anche per questo abbandona il paese e la famiglia. Suo padre muore e Balthazar resta alla vedova. Un giorno, Gèrard e un compagno rubano l'asino, caricandolo di merce di contrabbando, presso il confine, Balthazar viene ferito dai finanzieri e muore in mezzo a un gregge di pecore. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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Dans un monde plein de violence gratuite, d'exploitation économique, de tricherie, de sadisme et de viols, une seule famille traite Balthazar correctement. Ses membres vont le payer très cher. Dans ce film, l'âne Balthazar est le seul être vivant qui est vraiment innocent; il est, en effet, un saint.
Une obsession cruciale de Robert Bresson en tant que metteur-en-scène était le fait qu’il ne voulait en aucun cas que ses réalisations sentaient le théâtre. L'élément ‘acteur’ dans ses films était traité comme une pièce de décor. Toutes sortes d'émotion devaient être supprimées, car étant ‘théâtrales’. Mais, sa vision était trop rigide. Un peu plus d'émotion, des dialogues un peu plus animés ou une gesticulation un peu plus passionnée auraient rendu ses films plus ‘chauds’, plus humains et plus émouvants encore.
Mais, malgré tout cela, son film reste un chef-d'œuvre étonnant. A voir par tous les fanas de cinéma.
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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? I'm free, obliged only to do what serves my interests and can bring me a profit -- and a handsome profit at that. Life's nothing but a fair ground, a marketplace where even your word is unnecessary. A bank note will do." Marie spends the night.
Marie meets Jacques again. He wants to marry her. She refuses. "You see our names carved on this bench, our games with Balthazar. But I don't see a thing. I've no more tenderness, no heart, no feelings. Your words don't affect me anymore. Our vows of love, our childhood promises, move in a world of make-believe, not reality." She walks away.
Old and tired, Balthazar still is given no rest. Gerard and his gang steal him to carry contraband. They are discovered by border guards and shots are fired as they flee. At sun up Balthazar slowly moves from the forest into a meadow. He is bleeding from a gunshot wound. A herd of sheep move toward him. Balthazar rests on the meadow, with the sheep bleating around him, nuzzling him, moving past him. As the sheep move on, Balthazar has died. The movie ends.
This is a sad, poignant movie into which one can read all kinds of meanings. What stands out for me is the sense that life simply goes on whether or not a person is happy. The film is full of characters who are petty, sometimes cruel, jealous, naive or full of pride. Yet they aren't caricatures. They are simply people with many flaws. Balthazar finds himself in their lives. We see things where Balthazar is, but Balthazar doesn't see these things. He doesn't observe and he isn't used by Bresson to make a point. He is a passive, dumb beast who accepts what people do to him. We wait just as Balthazar waits. The movie is permeated, in my view, with great sadness and with the recognition that once a person is on a path, it's not all that easy to change. I'm not particularly sentimental, but the death of the little donkey in the field, surrounded by the sheep, had me wiping my eyes.
The Criterion black and white picture transfer is excellent. There are two particularly fine extras, an interview with Donald Richie and a French TV show about the movie which features Bresson, Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Goddard and members of the movie's cast and crew.
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"). Just how good the transfer is (and how good the subtitles are) can be proved when you watch the special feature, "Un metteur en ordre: Robert Bresson," a 1966 French television show about the film, featuring Bresson, Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle, and members of Balthazar's cast and crew that is included. When they show clips from the film during this feature, you can compare them to the transfer of the film on the disc. There really is no comparison: the print on the disc is crisp and pristine, with beautifully clear subtitles; the clips from the print in the special feature are grainy, hazy, and the subtitles are occasionally difficult to read. In other words, the new, restored high-definition digital transfer is truly spectacular.
There is nothing more to be said. This film is a masterpiece. Buy this DVD or borrow it from a friend, and watch this film as soon as you can. If everyone in the world watched it, what a world we'd be living in.
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.
The first shot of Au Hasard Balthazar displays an infant donkey seeking shelter and food from his mother's bosom amidst a flock of sheep. Suddenly, a hand reaches in with good intentions to touch the little donkey. Yet, the scene carries a threatening tone, as a little girl and a boy graze the donkey while asking an adult if they can have the donkey. At first, the man says "Impossible, children." However, the following scene shows that he changed his mind where he runs down hill with the children and the donkey. The scene provides a suggestive hint towards the corruption of innocence, as they remove the baby donkey from the safety of the mother. Bresson's cinematic genius shines through in this opening scene, as he strips the scene from characters, emotions, and acting. Instead, he leaves the audience only with the external stimuli in the form of spoken words and actions taken by the individuals in the scene. A strong sense of detached objectivity seems to radiate in the scene, which continues to linger throughout the film.
The kids, Marie and Jacques, have a baptism for the donkey in which they name him Balthazar. It is a fun and loving summer for kids who playfully connect around the little donkey, as they swarm around him with hugs and caress. Eventually, the summer ends and the kids must depart from one another leaving Balthazar in the hands of other less loving and caring. Here Bresson depicts the other side of humanity, the malevolent and cruel natures, which seem to derive from people's own selfish goals. The emotional coldness continues while illustrating the harshness with which Balthazar's owners beat him into submission. This leads the donkey into years of hard manual labor where he pulls wagons, plows fields, and tows logs. Balthazar's life with the kids is now a mere memory slipping into oblivion where his current life only experiences whips and sticks that roughly touch his beaten body.
After years of abusive living, Balthazar escapes after an accident, as he once again returns to the house where the kids once treated him with warm affection. The years have not been fortunate to those who used to live there, as the house now is up for sale and vicious rumors are spreading that the old teacher, Marie's father who is the caretaker, has swindled the owner. In pride, Marie's father refuses to produce any evidence, as it all rests on hearsay. Despite the family difficulty, a grown Marie (Anne Wiazemsky) does not hesitate to care for Balthazar, but this time the viewers can see Marie's life change for the worse. Strong comparisons between Balthazar and Marie emerge through Bresson's illustrious directing that presents the progress of how Marie falls victim to circumstance and wicked behavior. It leads the audience into a venture where Marie falls into bad company and experiences another form of abuse, which the film suggests through several scenes with Bresson's brilliant eye for how to frame each scene.
Through the abusive occurrences that both Balthazar and Marie experience they develop a connection between their destinies. This connection rests within the cruelty of humanity and the vile deeds of the characters around them. The abusiveness receives an intricate analysis through socioeconomic, Catholic, and moral undertones, as Bresson does not simply play on one specific aspect of society, but on all. One of the common interpretations draws to the analogous use of the two protagonists that emerge with Christ-like appearance, as they suffer for the sins of all the characters around them. Nonetheless, the social and psychological implications of consequences are relevant to the story, as they lead to further deeds and consequences. Lastly, the moral dilemmas presented in the film might seem heavily influenced by the Catholic Church with the use of the seven deadly sins and sacraments. Yet, it displays an understanding beyond pious beliefs that transcends the experiences to a more universal plane than mere Catholicism, as the film deals with the idea of destiny.
A very important aspect of the Au Hasard Balthazar is that the actors do not perform in the film - they do. This notion suggests that the actions of the characters becomes the characters and words have lost their meaning, as the words do not correlate with the deeds. Bresson's attention to perfection is evident while the film gives the impression of an artistic collage where each scene could very well have become an infamous piece of art. The audience gets the pleasure to follow 24 frames per second, which displays a majestic venture through living and breathing art. Au Hasard Balthazar begins with innocent youth that travels through devious and hazardous terrain, which ultimately ends where it once began. In full circle, Bresson's black and white film succeeds in multicolor palette portrayal of the diversity of humanity where no one is without transgressions and all should contemplate their own existence before parting with it.