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Au Hasard Balthazar

The UCLA Film & Television Archive will screen the film Au Hasard Balthazar by French director Robert Bresson on February 23, 2018. The screening is part of the series "Europe in Four Themes: Animals," which runs February 23-25. Accompanying the screening will be a discussion with philosopher and ethologist Vinciane Despret, professor at the University of Liège, Belgium. A leading voice in the emerging field of scientific humanities, Despret, in her latest book, What Would Animals Say If We Asked the Right Questions?, challenges with humor and insight the received scientific and anecdotal wisdom about animal behavior and agency.

Au Hasard Balthazar tells the story of the inextricably intertwined lives of Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), a farmer’s daughter, and Balthazar, the donkey she befriends when a child. The film looks intensely at human cruelty, suffering and compassion. Marie and Balthazar share tormentors in their provincial village, including Gérard (François Lafarge), the local gang leader, whose brutish treatment of both, and their resignation to it, drives the film’s episodic narrative with unremitting fate.  Saintliness and transcendence are ever-present themes in Bresson’s modernist parable, while the powerful, emotional pull of Balthazar’s presence on screen raises intriguing questions about the nature of animal “performance,” particularly within the context Bresson’s famous use of non-actors. 

Au Hasard Balthazar 
Director by: Robert Bresson 
Screenwriter: Robert Bresson
Cinematographer: Ghislain Cloquet
Starring: Anne Wiazemsky, Walter Green, François Lafarge, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Philippe Asselin
Runtime: 95 minutes
Country: France
Year: 1966