Bresson at the Film Forum
So I wonder if there’s any chance, any chance at all, of Au Hasard Balthazar making a stop in Knoxville. I’ve seen this film only twice, both times on a duped VHS tape that a friend mailed to me from California, but it’s securely in my Top 20 favorite films. I sometimes fantasize about writing a book about “Christian film aesthetics,” whatever that means. It would/will focus on the usual suspects: Bazin, Tarkovsky, Bergman, Dreyer, and, of course, Bresson. If there is, in fact, such thing as a Christian aesthetics in the cinema, then Balthazar must be the model.
God, as ever in the work of legendary filmmaker Bresson, is in the details: the elliptical editing, with its abrupt cuts, off-screen space, and as much focus on the hands of the nonpro cast as on their faces; sound design alternating between classical music and natural sounds; the accumulation of cruelties endured by Marie and Balthazar; and the religious symbolism, from baptism to martyrdom — with the silent Balthazar transformed into a patient, long-suffering saint (“the most sublime cinematic passage I know.” – Hoberman). In a body of work known for its purity and transcendence, Balthazar is perhaps the most wrenching of Bresson’s visions.
Hmmmmm . . . Roundtrip from Knoxville to LaGuardia is only $219. Tempting. Very tempting.