Monday, May 30, 2016

Au hasard Balthazar Turns 50



Over the years, countless reams of film scholarship have been written about the work of French director Robert Bresson (1901–1999). Within those lofty tomes, it’s doubtful you’ll find precise agreement from any two critics on the true nature of Breeson’s oeuvre, or the universal truths hidden in the director’s obtuse messaging. Bresson’s meaty, meticulous films are comprised of vague allegories and faint adumbrations, begging to be analyzed and dissected down to the granular level. Yet his filmography’s cinematic DNA remains a sublime mystery, as his films manage to edify and illuminate, often while leaving his viewers utterly dumbfounded.





Au hasard Balthazar (1966) is a prototypical Bresson dirge. Set in a dismal provincial backwater seemingly untouched by modernity, the film is the story of a donkey colt, his young owner Marie (Anne Wiazemsky) and their eventual expulsion from paradise. As Anne and the wooly-headed Balthazar grow and mature, there is no longer time for childhood frolics in the wild grasses of their country home, and each must proceed to their individual destinies. For Balthazar, this means a life of toil and misuse at the cruel hands of a variety of local farmers, while the penniless Marie must rely on her wits, as well as her budding sexuality, to survive.





For the viewer, there is much here to unpack as Breeson spares no biblical allusions or religious iconography in the unspooling of his parallel stories. At times, Au hasard Balthazar feels like a grafting of a Disney film unto The Passion of the Christ, as Balthazar’s tortured struggles lend him a saintly, sacrificial air. One could also make a case that Au hasard Balthazar is an unadorned, no holds barred feminist homology, as Marie and Balthazar often find themselves exploited by the same slack-jawed male miscreants, and always for reasons that boil down to ego and avarice.






For current sensibilities, Au hasard Balthazar can be a tough film to watch. Despite Breeson’s noble intentions, the donkey’s travails amount to graphic animal cruelty, and the film would likely be subject to protests and boycotts in today’s world. It’s true that such gristly scenes are important to Bresson’s thesis, but it’s cold comfort and prevents me from giving the film a whole-hearted recommendation. Those game for an immersion in Bresson’s mundane yet mystical worlds should seek out Diary of a Country Priest (1951) or A Man Escaped (1956) for a more palatable entry into this director’s unique and haunting filmography.


















Au hasard Balthazar Turns 50



Over the years, countless reams of film scholarship have been written about the work of French director Robert Bresson (1901–1999). Within those lofty tomes, it’s doubtful you’ll find precise agreement from any two critics on the true nature of Breeson’s oeuvre, or the universal truths hidden in the director’s obtuse messaging. Bresson’s meaty, meticulous films are comprised of vague allegories and faint adumbrations, begging to be analyzed and dissected down to the granular level. Yet his filmography’s cinematic DNA remains a sublime mystery, as his films manage to edify and illuminate, often while leaving his viewers utterly dumbfounded.





Au hasard Balthazar (1966) is a prototypical Bresson dirge. Set in a dismal provincial backwater seemingly untouched by modernity, the film is the story of a donkey colt, his young owner Marie (Anne Wiazemsky) and their eventual expulsion from paradise. As Anne and the wooly-headed Balthazar grow and mature, there is no longer time for childhood frolics in the wild grasses of their country home, and each must proceed to their individual destinies. For Balthazar, this means a life of toil and misuse at the cruel hands of a variety of local farmers, while the penniless Marie must rely on her wits, as well as her budding sexuality, to survive.





For the viewer, there is much here to unpack as Breeson spares no biblical allusions or religious iconography in the unspooling of his parallel stories. At times, Au hasard Balthazar feels like a grafting of a Disney film unto The Passion of the Christ, as Balthazar’s tortured struggles lend him a saintly, sacrificial air. One could also make a case that Au hasard Balthazar is an unadorned, no holds barred feminist homology, as Marie and Balthazar often find themselves exploited by the same slack-jawed male miscreants, and always for reasons that boil down to ego and avarice.






For current sensibilities, Au hasard Balthazar can be a tough film to watch. Despite Breeson’s noble intentions, the donkey’s travails amount to graphic animal cruelty, and the film would likely be subject to protests and boycotts in today’s world. It’s true that such gristly scenes are important to Bresson’s thesis, but it’s cold comfort and prevents me from giving the film a whole-hearted recommendation. Those game for an immersion in Bresson’s mundane yet mystical worlds should seek out Diary of a Country Priest (1951) or A Man Escaped (1956) for a more palatable entry into this director’s unique and haunting filmography.


















Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Man and a Woman Turns 50



Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman from 1966 was one of those rare films that pleased audiences and critics alike. The film nabbed the Palme d’Or and two Oscars while playing to crowded theaters worldwide. Over the years it has remained a popular property, generating over 6 million dollars in home video rentals. These days, film scholars consider Lelouch something of a lightweight, never awarding him the gravitas of Truffaut or Godard, his nouvelle vague brethren. But A Man and a Woman was a highly influential movie, especially to Hollywood filmmakers who admired its near perfect balance of entertainment and innovation.




While generically described as a romantic drama, A Man and a Woman reduces the genre to a study of specific moments in the formation of a love affair. The film deals more with the mental and emotional processes of falling in love than actually being in love. The couple in question, champion race car driver Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and script supervisor Anne (Anouk Aimèe) spend relatively little time together onscreen - just a few Sunday afternoons - yet memories of these brief reveries fill their weekdays like a ghostly presence. The couple is only separate on the physical plane, as new passions fill their once empty souls.



Lelouch’s stylish direction, complete with memory sequences, color shifting and music-cued montages, speaks a language that has become standard, some could say trite, filmmaker vocabulary. But here Lelouch wields the tools with skill and assurance, supporting and deepening the film’s existential air. Whenever the film threatens to become a bit too precious, Lelouch cleverly ups the ante with exciting scenes from the race track, including a harrowing nighttime sequence depicting the Monte Carlo Rally. But these are not mere junk-food thrills, for Jean-Louis and Anne will find the twisting course of love an even more perilous navigation.



Its influence extending to such iconic films as Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  nd countless music videos of the 1980’s and 90’s, A Man and a Woman continues to be relevant and rewarding. Neither nihilist nor fluffy, the film ultimately resolves with an honest appraisal of love’s dangers, and the courage required by lovers to venture on. Jean-Louis and Anne may not be a match made in heaven, but within the realm of flawed humanity they could do a lot worse.


A Man and a Woman Turns 50



Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman from 1966 was one of those rare films that pleased audiences and critics alike. The film nabbed the Palme d’Or and two Oscars while playing to crowded theaters worldwide. Over the years it has remained a popular property, generating over 6 million dollars in home video rentals. These days, film scholars consider Lelouch something of a lightweight, never awarding him the gravitas of Truffaut or Godard, his nouvelle vague brethren. But A Man and a Woman was a highly influential movie, especially to Hollywood filmmakers who admired its near perfect balance of entertainment and innovation.




While generically described as a romantic drama, A Man and a Woman reduces the genre to a study of specific moments in the formation of a love affair. The film deals more with the mental and emotional processes of falling in love than actually being in love. The couple in question, champion race car driver Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and script supervisor Anne (Anouk Aimèe) spend relatively little time together onscreen - just a few Sunday afternoons - yet memories of these brief reveries fill their weekdays like a ghostly presence. The couple is only separate on the physical plane, as new passions fill their once empty souls.



Lelouch’s stylish direction, complete with memory sequences, color shifting and music-cued montages, speaks a language that has become standard, some could say trite, filmmaker vocabulary. But here Lelouch wields the tools with skill and assurance, supporting and deepening the film’s existential air. Whenever the film threatens to become a bit too precious, Lelouch cleverly ups the ante with exciting scenes from the race track, including a harrowing nighttime sequence depicting the Monte Carlo Rally. But these are not mere junk-food thrills, for Jean-Louis and Anne will find the twisting course of love an even more perilous navigation.



Its influence extending to such iconic films as Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  nd countless music videos of the 1980’s and 90’s, A Man and a Woman continues to be relevant and rewarding. Neither nihilist nor fluffy, the film ultimately resolves with an honest appraisal of love’s dangers, and the courage required by lovers to venture on. Jean-Louis and Anne may not be a match made in heaven, but within the realm of flawed humanity they could do a lot worse.


Monday, May 23, 2016

New on Netflix: June 2016



June 1 
7 Chinese Brothers (2015) 
72 Cutest Animals: Season 1 
72 Dangerous Places: Season 1 
A Walk to Remember (2002) 
Big Stone Gap (2014) 
Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere (1990) 
Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed: Season 1-2 
Cold in July (2014) 
Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon? (2001) 
Cuba: The Forgotten Revolution (2015) 
(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies (2015) 
El Libro de Piedra (1969) 
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) 


Extraordinary Tales (2015) 
The Fear of 13 (2015) 
Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez (2015) 
Gentlemen and Gangsters: Season 1 
The Good Witch: Season 1 
The Great Alone (2015) 
Hadwin’s Judgement (2015) 
J. Edgar (2011) 
Jaco (2015) 
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015) 
Jurassic Park (1993) 
Jurassic Park III (2001) 
Lion Heart (2013) 
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) 
Meadowland (2015) 
The Odd Couple II (1998) 
Off Camera: Series 1 
Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages (2015) 
Pokémon: XY: Kalos Quest: Season 2 
Portrait of a Serial Monogamist (2015) 
The Resurrection of Jake the Snake (2015) 


Rock the Kasbah (2015) 
Sam Klemke’s Time Machine (2015) 
Second Coming (2014) 
Tab Hunter Confidential (2015) 
UFOs: The Best Evidence Ever (Caught on Tape) (1997) 
Underdogs (2013) 
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy (2015) 
Wildlike (2014) 
June 2 
Beauty & the Beast: Season 3 
Hibana: Spark – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
Pretty Little Liars: Season 6 
June 3 
Bo Burnham: Make Happy – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
June 6
Darkweb (2015) 
June 7 


Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015) 
Jarhead 3: The Seige (2016) 
June 10 
LEGO Friends: The Power of Friendship: Season 2 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
June 11
Me Him Her (2016) 
Scandal: Season 5 
June 12
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (2015) 
June 14
The League: Season 7 
June 15 
After The Spill (2015) 
Boom Bust Boom (2016) 
The Giver (2014) 
In the Shadow of the Moon (2007) 
Naz & Maalik (2015) 
Night Owls (2015) 
Poverty, Inc. (2014) 
Top Spin (2015) 
TransFatty Lives (2015) 
June 16 
Being Mary Jane: Season 3 
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3 
The Unborn (2009) 
June 17 
All Hail King Julien: Season 3 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 

Orange is the New Black: Season 4 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
June 18 
Cedar Cove: Season 3 
Grey’s Anatomy: Season 12 
June 19 
Bunk’d: Season 1 
I Am Thor (2015) 
June 20 
Life Story: Series 1 
The Making of Life Story 
June 21 
Best Friends Whenever: Season 1 
June 22
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) 
Spotlight (2015) 
June 24
Dragons: Race to the Edge: Season 3 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
Justin Time GO! – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
June 27 
Cronies (2015) 
June 29 
Life (2015) 
June 30 
A Very Secret Service: Season 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
Palio (2015) 
(T)ERROR (2015)



New on Netflix: June 2016



June 1 
7 Chinese Brothers (2015) 
72 Cutest Animals: Season 1 
72 Dangerous Places: Season 1 
A Walk to Remember (2002) 
Big Stone Gap (2014) 
Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere (1990) 
Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed: Season 1-2 
Cold in July (2014) 
Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon? (2001) 
Cuba: The Forgotten Revolution (2015) 
(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies (2015) 
El Libro de Piedra (1969) 
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) 


Extraordinary Tales (2015) 
The Fear of 13 (2015) 
Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez (2015) 
Gentlemen and Gangsters: Season 1 
The Good Witch: Season 1 
The Great Alone (2015) 
Hadwin’s Judgement (2015) 
J. Edgar (2011) 
Jaco (2015) 
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015) 
Jurassic Park (1993) 
Jurassic Park III (2001) 
Lion Heart (2013) 
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) 
Meadowland (2015) 
The Odd Couple II (1998) 
Off Camera: Series 1 
Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages (2015) 
Pokémon: XY: Kalos Quest: Season 2 
Portrait of a Serial Monogamist (2015) 
The Resurrection of Jake the Snake (2015) 


Rock the Kasbah (2015) 
Sam Klemke’s Time Machine (2015) 
Second Coming (2014) 
Tab Hunter Confidential (2015) 
UFOs: The Best Evidence Ever (Caught on Tape) (1997) 
Underdogs (2013) 
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy (2015) 
Wildlike (2014) 
June 2 
Beauty & the Beast: Season 3 
Hibana: Spark – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
Pretty Little Liars: Season 6 
June 3 
Bo Burnham: Make Happy – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
June 6
Darkweb (2015) 
June 7 


Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015) 
Jarhead 3: The Seige (2016) 
June 10 
LEGO Friends: The Power of Friendship: Season 2 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
June 11
Me Him Her (2016) 
Scandal: Season 5 
June 12
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (2015) 
June 14
The League: Season 7 
June 15 
After The Spill (2015) 
Boom Bust Boom (2016) 
The Giver (2014) 
In the Shadow of the Moon (2007) 
Naz & Maalik (2015) 
Night Owls (2015) 
Poverty, Inc. (2014) 
Top Spin (2015) 
TransFatty Lives (2015) 
June 16 
Being Mary Jane: Season 3 
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3 
The Unborn (2009) 
June 17 
All Hail King Julien: Season 3 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 

Orange is the New Black: Season 4 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
June 18 
Cedar Cove: Season 3 
Grey’s Anatomy: Season 12 
June 19 
Bunk’d: Season 1 
I Am Thor (2015) 
June 20 
Life Story: Series 1 
The Making of Life Story 
June 21 
Best Friends Whenever: Season 1 
June 22
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) 
Spotlight (2015) 
June 24
Dragons: Race to the Edge: Season 3 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
Justin Time GO! – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
June 27 
Cronies (2015) 
June 29 
Life (2015) 
June 30 
A Very Secret Service: Season 1 – NETFLIX ORIGINAL 
Palio (2015) 
(T)ERROR (2015)



80 Years at the Races

Most Marx Brothers aficionados agree that 1937’s A Day at the Races was the last truly great film featuring the zany siblings. Produced by ...