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Week of July 28, 2004

Au Hasard Balthazar Robert Bresson. (unrated) From birth to death, the donkey Balthazar -- ironically named for one of the biblical wise men -- reflects the character of those in rural France who nurture or abuse him, enduring his fate in much the same manner as the flawed humans who march myopically through their paces. Relying on his usual minimalist dialogue and uncomplicated action, director Bresson presents a maddeningly obtuse narrative of star-crossed lovers Marie and Jacques, their antagonistic fathers, drunken vagabond Arnold and pugilistic Gerard who, along with his misanthropic pals, enjoys oiling the road to trigger accidents when not mistreating Balthazar. At moments lyrically suggestive, Au Hasard Balthazar eliminates transitions and explanation, preferring suggestion, metaphor and an invitation to empathize rather than emote. Lives intersect accidentally, individuals comment philosophically on responsibility while exhibiting little self-awareness, and Schubert piano music alternates with donkey brays. Ah, la condition humaine! Ah, l'humanité! In French with English subtitles. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, July 30, through Sunday, August 1, in the Moore Auditorium on the campus of Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood Avenue. Call 314-968-7487 for more information. (Diane Carson)

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