Anne Wiazemsky

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Au Hasard Balthazar Review

You won't read about Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar in any art history book. You won't go to a museum to see his work on display or study his theory about actors as models. Unless you go looking for cinematic art of the caliber of Bresson's reflection of man's nature through the story of a donkey and his seven owners, no one will force you to watch Balthazar, in hopes of enriching your culture and appreciation of art. Unfortunately, it's likely that Balthazar is as lost on today's audience as the saintly donkey that bears man's burdens on his back only to be beaten, neglected and, finally, rejected.

Granted, the story of a donkey Christ figure is laughably pretentious. Except in Bresson's hands, the heavy metaphor isn't the point of the film, but rather its driving force. There's no mystery in the donkey Balthazar's role in the film. Early on he is baptized, called a saint, dons a crown of flowers, an allegorical crown of thorns, and is bound by the coarse bridles of man's burdens, be it the harness at a winery or carting bags of smuggled goods. While many films hide their metaphors under convoluted plots and characterizations, Balthazar wears its symbolism on its sleeve, which is also seen in the film's other characters. There is no time spent wondering about the role or motives of the young girl whose innocence is violently lost but remains in love. She is just that and nothing more; just as her prideful father or the town drunk. The depth of Bresson's film isn't in the archetypal characters, but how they interact with each other and the world. We don't relate to any of the characters' archetypes, especially the donkey, but we can sympathize with what they stand for, as they each represent an extreme of human experience. At some point in time, we have been one of these characters in some regard.

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Teorema Review

Teorema translates to "theorem" in Italian, and that's an apt metaphor for this ridiculously experimental film from auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Fewer than 1,000 words of dialogue are spoken during the film. That actually sounds like a lot, but the average person speaks at a rate of 280 words per minute (probably more in Italian). That translates to less than four minutes of dialogue during the film's 98-minute running time.

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Tout Va Bien Review

Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin were interested in leftist, specifically Maoist, political theory at the time they filmed Tout va Bien (which translates to All's Well, a possibly ambivalent reference to activists being marched away by police at the end of the film). The film starts off amusingly, narrated by two voices (presumably supposed to be the filmmakers) who want to make a "political" film but don't seem to have any particular ideas in mind -- except that for monetary reasons the film needs to have "stars." So Yves Montand and Jane Fonda are injected into the story (dream casting, since both were stars who were also leftists). Montand plays Jacques, a former filmmaker who now shoots slick commercials to pay the bills; Fonda is Suzanne, an unsuccessful journalist.

All too quickly, though, the film goes straight into politics, as Jacques and Suzanne go to interview the manager of a sausage plant and are locked in with him by activists who call a strike. Here the film gets very talky, but also credibly presents the activists' concerns as they wonder what settlement the union will seek with the management. There are some effective sequences in which the strikers complain to Suzanne about working conditions in the plant, and Godard's technical skill (and interesting use of a cutaway set of the factory) makes even this preachy part watchable for a while.

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