Au hasard Balthazar [Balthazar, at random] (1966)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Au hasard Balthazar</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">Balthazar, at random</strong>] (1966)

(Kanopy Streaming, October 2018) I have a parody version of French New Wave movies in my mind that has been fed by other parodies, by early unpleasant encounters with the genre and by various readings about the Cahiers du Cinéma/Rive Gauche crew. My theoretical parody is a wholly unfair funhouse version of a valid artistic movement, and I’m astonished to find a movie that surpasses its absurdity. That would be Au hazard Balthazar, a movie about a donkey. A real donkey as a protagonist. A donkey whose life, from birth to death, is followed by the film as an illustration of humanity as it gets new owners—some nice and others not-so-nice. But wait: the absurdity doesn’t stop there, as a donkey protagonist means that we’re stuck in rural France for the duration of the film. But wait! There’s more! Under writer/director Robert Bresson’s instructions, the actors do not emote even in the fiercest of conversations, giving an intense feeling of detached alienation to the proceedings, something that the mostly static camera and stripped-down surroundings definitely heighten. I’ll be the first to admit that this kind of cinema isn’t for me. Really; an emotionally-dampened movie about a donkey?! But then again I’m only beginning to dip seriously into the pool of sixties French cinema. Maybe I’ll revisit Au hasard Balthazar in a few years. In the meantime, I’m afraid I won’t be afraid to use the movie as an example of how absurd Nouvelle Vague cinema can be. A movie about a donkey and emotionless humans. Really.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *