HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
That Most Important Thing: Love
Man on the Run
First Love
Countess from Hong Kong, A
Storm Boy
Storm Boy
Frozen II
White Sheik, The
Whalebone Box, The
Hunt, The
Invisible Man, The
Honey Boy
System Crasher
Judy & Punch
Bacurau
Battling Butler
Vivarium
Seven Chances
Dogs Don't Wear Pants
Navigator, The
Knives Out
Hit!
Charlie's Angels
Passport to Shame
Le Mans '66
Keep Fit
Doctor Sleep
Friend or Foe
Brass Target
Mine and the Minotaur, The
Sky Pirates
Syncopation
Sea Children, The
Ghost of a Chance, A
Go Kart Go
Great Buster, The
Seventy Deadly Pills
Wings of Mystery
Treasure at the Mill
VFW
   
 
Newest Articles
The End of Civilisation as We Know It: The 50th Anniversary
The Whalebone Box: The Andrew Kotting Interview
Being Human: The Elephant Man on 4K UHD Blu-ray
It's! Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 3 on Blu-ray
Put the Boot In: Villain on Blu-ray
The Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 2: Vic Pratt Interview
All the Lonely People: Sunday Bloody Sunday on Blu-ray
Desperate Characters: Beat the Devil on Blu-ray
Chansons d'Amour: Alfie Darling on Blu-ray
Ozploitation Icon: Interview with Roger Ward
Godzilla Goes to Hollywood
Demy-Wave: The Essential Jacques Demy on Blu-ray
The Makings of a Winner: Play It Cool! on Blu-ray
Sony Channel's Before They Were Famous: A Galaxy of Stars
Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb: Fail-Safe on Blu-ray
Completely Different: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 2 on Blu-ray
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
   
 
  Au Hasard Balthazar Beast of Burden
Year: 1966
Director: Robert Bresson
Stars: Anne Wiazemsky, Francois Lafarge, Philippe Asselin, Nathalie Joyaut, Walter Green, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Pierre Klossowski, Francois Sullerot, Marie-Claire Fremont, Jean Remignard
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 3 votes)
Review: A movie Jean-Luc Godard once urged audiences to see, claiming it delivered “the world in an hour and a half.” Opening credits scored by a serene Schubert sonata are disrupted by the newborn brays of a baby donkey. Little Balthazar grows up as a children’s pet, given a mock baptism by adoring youngsters Jacques and Marie. As they play together, the children fall in love, an innocent joy not destined to last after Jacques leaves this country idyll and returns home.

Summer is over. Childhood is over in a swift fadeout that sees a suddenly grownup Balthazar being cruelly whipped while he pulls a cart full of hay. His haste leads the cart to topple over, after which he is chased by an angry mob. Returning by chance to his childhood home, Balthazar is reunited with the now-teenaged Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), yearning to escape her oppressive father (Philippe Asselin). Marie and Balthazar are true soul mates, a union symbolized when she kisses his lips and garlands him with flowers. Both are let down by weak parents and victimised to the point of sainthood.

Juvenile delinquent Gerard (Francois Lafarge) takes a fancy to Marie, claiming her almost as his personal property, free to use or dispense with as he pleases. He and his biker gang vent their small town frustration by kicking and beating poor Balthazar on his daily errands. Yet, just as he sings like an angel in church, Gerard has a devilish charm that draws Marie to him like a moth to a flame, and compels his mother (Marie-Claire Fremont) into concealing his smuggling activities alongside drunken hermit, Arnold (Jean-Claude Guilbert). Eventually, Jacques (Walter Greens) returns to Marie’s life, now a duller, more facile young man, unable to respond to her needs. Thus Marie settles for the increasingly abusive Gerard, an impulsive desire that sends her and Balthazar spiralling towards their tragic, yet transcendental fate.

Robert Bresson’s austere directorial style takes some getting used to, with its concentration on people’s feet (If eyes are windows to the soul, do feet suggest our frailty and ties to the earth?) and characters who remain passive no matter how harsh their treatment. Yet his films are worth persevering with and quite unlike any others. He remains the most immediate of the great filmmakers - you don’t watch his movies, you live them.

Although he keeps them to the peripheries, Bresson can deal suspense (Gerard cruelly lends Arnold an unloaded gun to fend of the slowly-encroaching police), horror (the discovery of a gang-raped Marie, naked and shivering in an abandoned shack) and wonder. There is a magical sequence, involving Balthazar’s wryly amusing career as a circus performer, where caged tigers, monkeys, elephants and more come alive as character in the presence of genuine sainthood.

For Bresson martyrdom was a source of spiritual release. Even if you reject such a staunchly Catholic viewpoint, with the long-suffering donkey a mirror for the life of Jesus Christ, the film can still be admired for its philosophical ruminations on poverty, injustice and the nature of human existence. All related from a variety of viewpoints, be they Marxist, religious or capitalist. A lecherous merchant (Pierre Klossowski) counters Marie’s spiritualism with his own materialistic views (“I believe in what I own. I love money and hate death”). For her part, the saintly Marie fatally misunderstand what love is and goes looking for a saviour in the wrong place. It remains a deeply spiritual movie, even shorn of its Christian implications and applied to the secular world. And the moment Balthazar peacefully expires amidst a flock of sheep remains one of the most profoundly moving sights in world cinema.

Click here to watch a clip

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 3763 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
  Butch Elliot
Andrew Pragasam
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton
   

 

Last Updated: