Au Hasard Balthazar

Movie Information

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Au Hasard Balthazar at 8 p.m. Friday, April 15, at Phil Mechanic Studios (109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
Score:
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Genre: Symbolic Drama
Director: Robert Bresson
Starring: Anne Wiazemsky, Walter Green, Francois Lafarge, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Philippe Asselin
Rated: NR

Gorgeous black-and-white cinematography marks every scene—indeed every shot—of Robert Bresson’s art-house perennial Au Hasard Balthazar (1966), a methodically paced, symbolic film that centers on the life of a donkey named Balthazar. That may not sound like the most appealing material for a feature film, but they key word is “symbolic.” This starts quite early when the Balthazar’s new owner’s baptize the donkey, thereby implicitly (or maybe explicitly) imbuing the animal with a soul. It is through this that Balthazar can be said to be able to become saintly. His brief, happy existence in his youngest days give way to his generally miserable life as a much abused beast of burden. Don’t get the idea that this is in any way a cute film in the Disney sense of animal movies. In other words, Brighty of the Grand Canyon this isn’t. This is a dark film about the unfairness of life and about the suffering inflicted, not just on animals, but on human beings by other human beings. It very much deserves its art-house cred.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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