The Red Balloon

"Essential"

The Red Balloon Review


Do you remember the first time you saw The Red Balloon? If you're of a certain age, you were probably in your third grade classroom eagerly waiting for your teacher to roll in the projector on movie day. If you're on the younger side, though, there's a chance you've never seen this short, sweet masterpiece of French cinema. It's a shame if you didn't see it as a child, but it's not too late to catch up.

The only short film ever to win an Oscar for best original screenplay, Albert Lamorisse's little wonder tells the story of young Pascal (Lamorisse's own son Pascal), a nine-year-old Parisian boy living an ordinary life in a sketchy but absolutely gorgeous and cinematic Parisian neighborhood until the day that a large red balloon mysteriously floats into his life... and stays.

The magical balloon has puppy-like attributes. Whether Pascal holds the string or not, the balloon follows him faithfully on his daily circuit to and from school and shops and vacant lots. A streetcar conductor refuses to let the balloon board, so they race to school together, where the balloon waits outside the door until Pascal returns. When a mean teacher punishes Pascal, the balloon hilariously taunts the teacher in a bit of supernatural slapstick. The balloon even finds its own friend, a big blue balloon held by a little girl.

For an all-too-brief 50 minutes we enjoy the friendship of Pascal and the balloon until a pack of vicious, feral, jealous schoolboys decide to have some fun. Separating Pascal and the balloon, they basically stone the balloon to see if they can pop it. It would be a sin to give away the ending, but suffice it to say the movie suddenly elevates, so to speak, to the level of tear-jerking religious parable or, if you're an atheist, to a beautiful "all dogs go to heaven" moment.

The fact that Lamorisse can imbue a simple balloon with so much emotion and then make us emote all over it, is a masterful feat, and one that has rarely been duplicated in film. As the new Criterion DVD version is released, you can also head to the theater to see Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien's reinterpretation of the film called The Flight of the Red Balloon. It's not a remake, but rather a homage that tries to recapture some of that Parisian magic.

Do I give The Red Balloon five stars because I'm hopelessly nostalgic for third grade and the innocence of childhood? Maybe, but I also award the stars because the film is on the list of essentials, and if you missed it as a child, now is the time to make sure you seek it out and watch it. But here's the challenge: Try to watch with child-like eyes.

Aka Le Ballon rouge.

How high?



The Red Balloon

Facts and Figures

Run time: 34 mins

In Theaters: Monday 11th March 1957

Distributed by: Lopert Pictures Corporation

Production compaines: Films Montsouris

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 19 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Albert Lamorisse

Producer: Albert Lamorisse

Starring: Pascal Lamorisse as Pascal the Boy, Georges Sellier as Shopkeeper, Vladimir Popov as Un locataire

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