Sunday, March 25, 2018

CANON OF FILM: "THE RED BALLOON"

THE RED BALLOON (1956)

Director/Screenplay: Albert Lamorisse




It’s one of the most famously whimsical and parodied images in world cinema, a little boy being with “The Red Balloon.” It’s an image so wonderfully captivating and pure that it’s influenced thousands of young filmmakers and filmgoers for generations. My mother said that she saw the film every year in school; it would be shown at a school assembly, and it never got old. I wasn’t so lucky; I’m only recently discovering it by watching it on Netflix.com. Next to Luis Bunuel’s and Salvador Dali’s surrealist “Un Chien Andalou,” it’s probably the most famous short film in movie history. At 34 minutes in length, it not only won the Palme D’Or at Cannes in the Short Film category, but most impressively won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, making it the only time a short film ever won an Oscar in competition against feature length films. 

The film has very little dialogue, and the story itself is very simplistic, yet I continue to watch the film astonished at its wonderment, but perplexed as to just how this film was made in 1956. The story involves a young boy (Pascal Lamorisse, the director’s, Albert Lamorisse’s son) as he finds a red balloon on a lamppost one day, begins taking it with him wherever he goes. First thing I should say is that, this balloon in very red, in direct contrast to the cold, rainy French town the film takes place in, but soon, it becomes apparent that enamored with the young boy, the balloon, which apparently has a mind of it’s own begins helping out and following the boy wherever he goes. I’m still in amazement at how the balloon, seems to not only move like it’s an actual balloon, and yet is able to move with an apparent mind behind it. I’m sure there’s some sort of oxygen or helium or wire trick, but for the life of me, I can’t see how they did it, and of course this is nothing compared to the amazing ending shot, which both enthralls and frightens me simultaneously. Once word gets out of the boy with the red balloon, the rest of his classmates, jealous at the kid with a balloon who follows him loyally, try to take the balloon and destroy it. 

The film’s writer/director, Albert Lamorisse was a photographer who switched to short films in his 40s, receiving much critical success, often going back to the image of the little boy and the balloon in continuations of the story, before eventually switching over to documentaries. His other critically applauded short is "White Mane" about a kid who befriends a horse. He also worked as a documentary filmmaker, earning an Oscar nomination for "The Lover's Wind" what would inevitably be his final film as he was killed in a helicopter crash during production. His other interesting claim to fame is as the inventor of the board game “Risk.” and he did direct two other feature films in his life, "Circus Angel" and "Stowaway in the Sky", the latter being a story about a grandfather and grandson having an adventurous trip, in a red, hot air, balloon. 

A lot of his stuff involved flight and adventure around the world and I suspect he  this will forever be his most remembered work, as it waits to be discovered by children of all ages to be amazed by it.   

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