February 22, 1970 [Au hasard Balthazar]

I watched Au hasard Balthazar in a kind of stupor, found myself not blinking, my mouth open a little, my motionless hands falling asleep. It was as though I had been cursed--or was it some new ecstasy, the first numbing step away from my body and the need to pay attention to anything but what is necessary?

And what is necessary? Is it suffering? Balthazar the donkey suffers the whims of demons, punks and madmen--and the girl who grows with him, her love promised, her mercy unfulfilled. What else is there? Yearning? For what? To be left alone, to spend a day un-harried? Or to be loved, despite all other miseries? It’s almost a joke, this movie, punctuated by braying and close-ups of the animal’s eye—and Christ how I wished I could be looking into other eyes, Mr. Ed’s or Francis the Talking Mule. But no: Bresson reaches farther back, to Pinocchio and Pleasure Island, and Lampwick the bad little boy twisted like something out of Ovid, punished for next to nothing--his own whim is all, a boy’s indulgences, for God’s sake--and forced down on all fours to hee-haw like a damned thing, the shadows rising like the sound of his new voice.

And is that what set my tears to flowing at the end?--the movie done for a good ten seconds before suddenly I couldn’t stop myself, and I sat there like a kid, my hand over my mouth, my eyes closed, while the audience slipped away and I cried for--I know, I know: me, like poor Lampwick also now a donkey.

And is that all I was going to take away from this? Pity for poor poor me? I shook my head and opened my eyes and thought about the girl, grown up and hoping for love--but getting rough lips swiping at her mouth like a shove to send her backward into a gone childhood, an empty room that isn’t even hers anymore--but she has to live in it, forever.

And is that what Bresson wants me to have? A good look at the girl, and inside of that the donkey, and inside of that the rest of us? I was the last one out of the theater, and found the car and drove around for a while so I could go home and hold this stone in my hand, the one with my name on it, the one I coughed up in the theater, and put in my pocket so that both hands were free to type these letters, one after the other, with a period at the end


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