When the Museum of Modern Art announced "The Hidden God," a major faith and film series featuring titles as diverse as Magnolia, Andrei Roublev and Groundhog Day, the curators said the one film which clearly had to be included was Robert Bresson's masterpiece, Au Hasard Balthazar. The New York Times recently proclaimed, "Forget the Sith, Tom and Katie, the big movie news this summer is the release on DVD of one of the greatest films in history: Au Hasard Balthazar."
Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer writes: "No film I have ever seen has come so close to convulsing my entire being. Bresson's Christian spirituality finds its most earthy, layered and life-giving expression. Grace has never been dramatized more lucidly, or more movingly, than it is here."
Not bad for a donkey movie. This unadorned 95-minute story follows the young colt Balthazar's adoption as a family pet, through the hands of many masters, to the moment of his eventual death. It is a fragmentary portrait of a French village in the mid-sixties, tracing the interwoven lives of eight characters. It's a study of human weakness and cruelty, it's a portrait of Christ the suffering servant, it's the heartbreaking story of a young girl's descent from innocence to despair. But above all, it's a movie about a donkey.
Bresson was a French Catholic who made his greatest and most deeply Christian films in the two decades following World War Two. Afficionados would be hard-pressed to choose his masterpiece—A Man Escaped, Diary of a Country Priest, The Trial of Joan of Arc and Pickpocket all have their advocates—but Au Hasard Balthazar may be his most resonant and profoundly spiritual work. It is certainly his most affecting. Film scholar Donald Richie describes ...1
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Au Hasard Balthazar
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