Tuesday, July 14, 2015
The Black Stallion (1979) A Film by Carroll Ballard
"With the exception of the hushed pitter-patter of feet pressing into earth, the occasional low murmur of rather inconsequential dialogue, and a varied score that often pares down to just the soft plucking of a harp, Carroll Ballard's The Black Stallion might as well be a silent film. A curious artifact from the unstable transitional period as the New Hollywood Cinema ceded to the early blockbuster era, the film owes the storybook simplicity of its visuals to the crystalline children's films of Albert Lamorisse—most specifically 1952's White Mane, with which it shares the subject of a boy-horse friendship. The breakout effort from now-ubiquitous cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, The Black Stallion is a relentless procession of lavishly framed images, each one a marvel of compact visual storytelling. Only in its latter half, when Ballard accommodates a plot progression involving a Kentucky horse trainer, does the film exercise conventional mise-en-scène with shot-reverse-shot patterns unifying a dramatic space. Before that, and especially in its lengthy sequence of courtship between the boy, Alec (Kelly Reno), and the stallion, referred to simply as "Black," Ballard affords each deep-focus shot a concise descriptive power unto itself. The sound could be muted without any loss of comprehension." Full review of Criterion's new Blu-Ray continued at Slant.