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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New video interview with film scholar Donald Richie
  • ďUn metteur en ordre: Robert Bresson,Ē a 1966 French television show about the film, featuring Robert Bresson, Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle, and members of Balthazarís cast and crew
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Insert featuring a new essay by film scholar James Quandt

Au hasard Balthazar

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Robert Bresson
1966 | 95 Minutes | Licensor: Argos Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #297
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 29, 2018
Review Date: June 3, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

A profound masterpiece from one of the most revered filmmakers in the history of cinema, Au hasard Balthazar, directed by Robert Bresson, follows the donkey Balthazar as he is passed from owner to owner, some kind and some cruel but all with motivations outside of his understanding. Balthazar, whose life parallels that of his first keeper, Marie, is truly a beast of burden, suffering the sins of humankind. But despite his powerlessness, he accepts his fate nobly. Through Bressonís unconventional approach to composition, sound, and narrative, this simple story becomes a moving parable about purity and transcendence.


PICTURE

Using a new 4K restoration the Criterion Collection upgrades their DVD edition Robert Bressonís Au hazard Balthazar to Blu-ray on a dual-layer disc, again presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. Like the high-definition restoration used for the original DVD this new one was scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

The previous DVD doesnít look too bad all these years later but compression issues held it back and there were still some noticeable bits of damage, though it was, in all fairness, limited to a few bits of dirt and debris here and there. Still, this Blu-ray has cleaned up those remaining bits of grit while also better better managing compression. This leads to improved details, especially for the finer ones found in clothing or the fields or buildings and it is in the donkeyís fur where this improvement is most noticeable: where it looked blocky and messy in the DVD it now has a more natural texture in comparison. After having said that, even with these improvements I canít say the image is all that crisp. There is a bit of a softness, not drastic, but subtle enough where itís still perceptible. Despite that grain is still evident, suggestingóat least somewhatóthat any supposed softness is just characteristic of the original photography.

The Blu-ray then finally offers richer blacks and better shadow delineation, leading to more detail in the filmís darker sequences. Altogether, even if the image isnít as sharp and crisp as what I would have hoped, itís still a far cleaner and more photographic looking image than anything the previous DVD offered.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM 1.0 is limited in regards of dynamic range (itís pretty flat) but it suits the quiet nature of the film. Damage also isnít a big concern.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports over the supplements from the DVD edition but sadly donít offer anything new. First is a 13-minute interview with scholar Donald Richie, who talks about Bressonís style, and the many reactions (including his own) to this film. Despite Richie seeming very sincere about how the film impacted him itís not terribly insightful, other than maybe when he touches a bit on the various interpretations and even negative criticisms of the film.

Much better, though, is a 62-minute French television episode of Pour le Plaisir, which aired in May of 1966. Put together by Robert Stťphane, it features interviews with the likes of Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle, commenting on what they consider an absolutely remarkable film, while also featuring interviews with Bresson, cinematographer Ghislain Cloquet, and actors Anne Wiazemsky, FranÁois Lafarge and Pierre Klossowski. Though the insights from the third parties prove most valuable the details provided by the cast and crew are astonishingly detailed, Bresson even sharing his thoughts on what the film is about and what it means. Itís admittedly a bit drawn out in places but still a really pleasing inclusion.

The disc then features what is said to be the original theatrical trailer, which it probably is, though it opens with the Rialto logo. The included insert then offers a short but thorough analysis of the film by James Quandt. The essay looks to be the same as what was available with the previous DVD edition.

I still appreciate the supplements Criterion includes for the film but it is a bit frustrating, especially with the more premium $39.95 price point, that new material hasnít been added, and ends up making this upgrade feel less satisfying.

5/10

CLOSING

The A/V presentation is better in comparison to the DVD but thanks to the lack of new supplemental material and the higher price point this ends up feeling like a fairly minimal upgrade overall.


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Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca