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Waker Short Reviews! The Red Balloon (1956) 2013.04.26

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#1 Waker



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Posted 12 October 2014 - 10:53 PM

Original title: Le ballon rouge

Release year: 1956

Director: Albert Lamorisse


Rating; 3/5

Watched: Apr 26, 2013


A boy and a balloon. A film by Albert Lamorisse.

I expected more from a colorful and exact title, as well as my imagined connection between this film and the song "99 Red Balloons" (or "99 Luftballons").

It's a very simple film, following the daily life of a red balloon that has the magical ability to move on its own, as if it has life. Which it does demonstrate by floating and flying throughout the sidewalks and areas of Paris, following the boy and being taken care of or waiting for him. And then other things happen.

Technically it's impressive how the balloon moves. I spent some minutes trying to figure out how it's moving, but seeing as there didn't seem to be a string pulling it along, I just accepted it as autonomous. I eventually saw how it worked, though, especially in this one scene I won't say... moving through the street. The picture is clear. So clear and 'accurate' that it was beautiful. I thought it matched the best of modern cinematography, and the best of black and white film as well (Ikiru, Bicycle Thieves).

The problem I had was that the story was too simple. I have to admit now, after watching the trailer provided on the side here, with commentary by A. O. Scott, that I didn't get it. Now I understand this film is supposed to be a small piece, like a morsel, of good filmmaking. Akin to those short animation pieces on YouTube that have simple characters and tell a short story. It's "just for fun." A demonstration of what perhaps Lamorisse and his crew could do and having fun trying to see what they or film could do. The short length of the film (37 minutes) proves this. In this respect, The Red Balloon is a success. A delicious treat.

But I'm keeping the rating of 3/5 because viewed as a film, without consideration for the length and the short film category's culture or standard, the story or pacing needs a lot of work. At times I was watching with concentrated attention at the balloon bobbing behind the boy in a right-to-left view of a sidewalk by a store window, with pedestrians passing by. A lot of the film is like this. It lacks substance. More sight than soulful insight. As an example, Pixar shorts have a better balance.

If you're looking for a fun morsel of colorful experimentation, then this film is for you. It's like listening a pianist play a classic song as if new, presenting surprises here and there. If you're expecting filling and advice for how to live your life, look elsewhere.

Edited by Waker, 12 October 2014 - 10:54 PM.


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