On Au Hasard Balthazar


In which The Gay Recluse is disturbed, but not unpleasantly so.

A few nights ago we saw Au hasard Balthazar, the 1966 film by Robert Bresson.*

It’s about a donkey born on a farm in a small village in France, and a young girl who — at least for a little while — loves the donkey.

But the fate of the family is difficult, and eventually after time passes the donkey is callously sold.

Meanwhile, the girl falls in love with a sadistic teenager who seems to do nothing but torture others — the girl, the donkey, the town drunk — and never suffer any consequences.

In short: it’s just like real life! Lol.

Also realistic is a bleakness that pervades the film, and a plot that is rather abstruse at times, so that our reaction to the characters tends to be more emotional than plot driven.

For the most part, we ended up hating all of them, even — or especially — the girl, because she doesn’t really seem to care about the donkey, Balthazar, who — as he’s passed from owner to owner — suffers more and more.

Like the J-man, who was obvs a big influence on Bresson, Balthazar is meant to transcend the obvious flaws of his human cohorts. Still, we can’t watch Balthazar without a certain dread, because his suffering is so constant and needless.

By the time the movie ends, we are nothing but relieved to end this arduous trip.

Still, we’re glad we saw it.

Even if it makes us look even more askance than usual at our fellow subway riders, knowing that we are all lesser beings than Balthazar, a sad donkey.

*We cannot watch this movie — bleak and “outsidery” as it is — without concluding that Bresson was gay. A quick search reveals that he probably was, given the abundance of quotes such as this one, from mastersofcinema.com: “Bresson was a private and reserved person, and we shall respect his privacy by avoiding issues pertaining to his personal life.” Srsly, has anyone ever said that about anyone who wasn’t gay?

3 Responses to “On Au Hasard Balthazar”

  1. 1 Atherton Bartelby

    OMG. I adored this entry. Not only because I adore Bresson. But because I could not stop giggling throughout the entire thing, as I was scrolling from one photo and paragraph to the next. Those subtle differences in the poses of Dante and Zephyr from one photo to the next, were just too funny, animating the descriptions fabulously. You three make a great team.

  2. Thanks, AB — I hope you have great trip East!

  3. Ahhhhh that would make sense. Mouchette seems like the kind of film only a gay man could make. Its kind of the OG Welcome to the Dollhouse but with just a touch less humor.

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