Au Hasard Balthazar | Chicago Reader

Au Hasard Balthazar

In 1966, the great French auteur Robert Bresson delivered this indelible classic about the humble, sorrowful life of a donkey named Balthazar. From his first steps to his dying breath, Balthazar is subject to random acts of tenderness and brutality, orchestrated by various owners and passersby in a nondescript French village. Balthazar’s caretakers include a poor schoolteacher and his daughter (played by captivating French actress Anne Wiazemsky, in her first onscreen role), a baker’s cruel delivery boy, the town drunk, and a coterie of circus performers, to name a few. Balthazar represents the viewer, the film implies, in that humans too live at the mercy of chance; “au hasard” roughly translates to “at random.” Restored in 2014 from the original 35-millimeter negative, the movie plays like a concerto, buttressed in part by the emotional stirrings of the plaintive score by composer and pianist Jean Wiener. In effective contrast, Bresson refuses to sentimentalize his central beast of burden, or render the creature’s journey uniquely special or tragic. Like the viewer, Balthazar watches his life go by, with no real control over how it will unfold or how it will end. In French with subtitles.

Credits

Director:

  • Robert Bresson

Cast:

  • Anne Wiazemsky
  • Francois Lafarge
  • Philippe Asselin
  • Nathalie Joyaut
  • Walter Green
  • Jean-Claude Guilbert
  • Pierre Klossowski
  • Francois Sullerot
  • M.C. Fremont
  • Jean Remignard

Writer:

  • Robert Bresson

Producer:

  • Mag Bodard

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