Saturday, March 18, 2006

Every Now and Then











Sometimes there are major films which escape the cinephile, major films by major directors (artists whom the cinephile loves), and for whatever reasons, you have to shrug and admit that you have not seen this by-all-accounts masterpiece. Perhaps, as in my case, you simply hold off for the big screen (and then, um, ineptly miss that big-screen chance when it comes to you), and on the few occasions when your resolve crumbles and you decide you'll watch it on DVD, you find that it's perennially checked-out at the video store. You put off seeing it because you're more and more embarrassed that you haven't seen it. Several friends count it as one of their very favorite films. And when in this particular case one buddy, Girish, is in town and mentions one such film as his all-time favorite, I knew the stars were aligned when my video store finally had the damned DVD in stock. I compromised by not waiting for a print to come back to New York, as I wanted, but here I took the first glimpse (and not to be a final one), and all circumstances considered nothing could possibly be improved, and I was offered more things than I can count ...

15 comments:

Brian said...

There should be a theatre somewhere in the world where it was perpetually playing, and one could save his pennies to come to it. I waited years for a single screening and had to change the dates of an out-of-town trip I'd been planning when that screening was finally announced. (there were other reasons to change the date but that was a major one).

Gabe Klinger said...

It's quite something to see BALTHAZAR with an audience, though I've never felt Bresson's visuals to be ill-suited for video. It helps that he paints in bold strokes, and likes to accentuate action in close-ups.

Matt said...

I've seen far less Bresson than I should have (including Balthazar and Pickpocket), but I can claim to have seen A Man Escaped on the big screen, projected, with an audience; and that's something like nothing else.

Phil said...

I've seen both UNE FEMME DOUCE and L'ARGENT on the big screen, several years ago. They were great (while somewhat uneasy) experiences, but I don't think I got everything out of them...

Damien said...

Balthazar is extraordinary, unique, one of the most compassionate films ever made It would bee a great recruiting tool for PETA.

I'm still waiting for a revivl theatre to pair it with Arthur Lubin's Francis The Talking Mule.

jmac said...

So what is this film really like, Z.? Do they hurt the animals or people? I have not seen Balthazar or Mouchette because I'm not sure I can handle these films!

Maya said...

I'm so glad you finally had the opportunity to see this, Zach!! It's also one of my favorite films and has done more for interspecies communication than almost any other I've seen. I can't tell you how many times I feel as downtrodden as Balthazar. I'm so pleased that I'll get to see it again early next month as part of PFA's Film 50 series.

David Lowery said...

I'm fairly certain this is my favorite Bresson film (I've seen exactly half of his output), and while I too would have loved to see it on the big screen, the gorgeous transfer on the Criterion disc is a close substitute.

I was a bit at a loss for words the first time I viewed it as well.

JMac, there is some actual animal cruelty in the film, but nothing so terrible that you should hesitate in seeing it. The narrative cruelty to both Balthazar and the humans, however, is almost unbearable at times - but again, like all great films, the tribulations are entirely worthwhile.

Andy Rector said...

I've seen AHB three times: one time in a bad video (the most revelatory of all), second in the theater (it seemed oddly cold), and third in the theater (where it sang again and where I wept through almost the entire film. It wasn't sentiment but the beauty or gladness of creation and the most profound death scene in ALL of cinema that made me well up).
-andy

jmac said...

Thanks for this info, D. I know that this Bresson film must be amazingly compassionate in ways other than when they hurt the animals? What the hell? :)

(Just being the devil's advocate . . . )

Zach Campbell said...

Damien, I actually saw a VHS of Francis the Talking Mule at the library the other day, and almost checked it out on a whim ...

Jen, the film doesn't seem to really go far at all in terms of animal cruelty--most of it is offscreen or obscured in some way. I'm an animal lover but didn't have too hard a time watching it.

Phil said...

Speaking of animal cruelty (this will be somewhat off-topic, but not quite)... I'm an animal lover as well, and I'm currently gearing up to see Franju's LE SANG DES BETES, which was included as an extra on Criterion's edition of LES YEUX SANS VISAGE. It will be a difficult experience, but I'm very curious about the film and am a big Franju fan.

Eric Henderson said...

Balthazar is unimpeachable on just about any rational level, but also a few irrational ones. By which I mean, some of those reaction shots of Balthazar are insanely funny. Am I alone in this?

jmac said...

Maybe I'll rent this work sometime soon. I have been wondering about it. By the way, here's a quote I have posted in my cubicle:

"I imagined that my thoughts should be sublime."

-The Devil Probably/Robert Bresson

girish said...

Eric, I chalked up Balthazar's reaction shots to the mighty Kuleshov effect, but yes, they're really great.
Here's Canadian alt-comix artist Seth with an illustration for the film.