Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Red Balloon (1956)

It's an old story. Boy meets Balloon. Boy loses Balloon. Gang attacks Balloon and pops it's cherry-redness. Boy drowns his sorrows in the company of many anonymous balloons. We've heard it a thousand times before.

In a book I am reading (overdue) on film appreciation, it mentions that most American's have been introduced to french cinema with this movie when it was played in schools. Vaguely, I remember watching a film having something to do with balloons that had very little dialogue. I wondered what nostalgic memories it would evoke.

So, the story is thus (ignore that crap I wrote earlier): A boy walking to school finds an unusual red balloon. He can't bring it into school so he tells it to wait for him, and it does. The balloon becomes his friend and follows him where he goes. They have some adventures, but the balloon is threatened by a gang of kids.

What's really interesting about this is the control the director seemed to have over the balloon. Clearly it was rigged, and in one place you can see how, but mostly the effect was excellent. Also, the cinematography was stellar. The city (Paris, I'm guessing) was showcased expertly. Interestingly, it won the Academy Award for best original screenplay even though the entire script could fit on a post-it note.

Winning that, and the Cannes award for short subjects, didn't seem to totally launch career of the young Albert Lamorisse. He did a couple more shots, one feature film, then died in a helicopter crash in Iran. Eight years later, the film he was making was released. His legacy as a filmmaker may be overshadowed by another accomplishment: he invented the board game Risk.

The Red Balloon is charming, visually interesting, and brief (34 minutes). Had I seen it as a child I may be giving it a higher score, but apparently I didn't. AMRU 3.5.

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