I Found It At the Movies: 1966–Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1966–Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson)

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen this film, and it’s one I can’t remember with great specificity. In fact, in my mind it is somewhat bundled up with Bresson’s very next film, Mouchette.  

Everything I already said about Bresson in my 1959 post on Pickpocket applies here. The major shift in Au Hasard Balthazar is that Bresson leaves the city and explores the countryside. As much as I love Pickpocket, there’s a poetic urge in Bresson that doesn’t seem fully released except in more rural settings. In Balthazar, Bresson’s poetic abilities are firing at full potential. I remember it having Tarkovsky-esque imagery–gorgeous, haunting visuals with a deep, heavy, almost overwhelming presence.

The thing though that I remember most about Balthazar is a scene of a car racing down a country road. We hear the car skid, Bresson cuts to black, and then we hear the rest of the accident without seeing it. It was the moment that introduced me to the power of sound in moviemaking and convinced me that, in the right hands, sound could be just as important as image.  

Of my favorites, Balthazar is one of the ones I most need to see again, just to refresh my memory. I’m confident saying this, though: It is Bresson at his most austere, human and poetic.  

What moviemakers can learn:  There are very few books that I would deem must-reads for moviemakers. Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer is one of them.  

Other contenders for 1966:  I still have quite a few titles to see. These include: Miklós Jancsó’s The Round-Up (Szegénylegények), Jacques Rivette’s The Nun (La religieuse) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain. I really need to revisit Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up and Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin, as it’s been too long since I’ve seen any of them to know where they’d place on this list.  From this year, I really like John Ford’s 7 Women, Alain Resnais’ The War Is Over (La guerre est finie) and Arthur Penn’s The Chase.  I love Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev and Roberto Rossellini’s The Rise of Louis XIV.  And my closest runner-up is Howard Hawks’ El Dorado.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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