Thursday, April 2, 2009

Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) (1956)
--- fantasy

Dir: Albert Lamorisse

I first saw this film like many people my age did, in school. My viewing was caused by either a snow day or rainy day during recess in Elementary school, and the staff stuffed all of us kids in an auditorium to watch Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, Woody Woodpecker, and Pink Panther cartoons. Somewhere in the mix, they showed the Albert Lamorisse short film Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) and till this day I have never forgot it. It has stayed with me.

The virtually silent film that runs about a half hour is simply about a boy’s journey around his neighborhood in Paris, France. In tow he has a sentient helium-filled bright red balloon that he carries on a string. Everyone he meets is enchanted by the boy and his balloon. Most of the adults react with a smile, but some adults seem like their hearts are too hardened and try to get rid of the balloon and separate the boy from it. However, at the end of the day, the boy prevails with his balloon by his side like a pet.

He takes his floating friend everywhere he goes seemingly bringing wonder and curiosity to everyone he encounters. The only antagonists in this film appear to be a mass of neighborhood school boys who persistently try to capture the red balloon for themselves. Their intent does not seem to be as affectionate as its owner. In a climax that feels every bit like The Lord of the Flies, the boys do get the balloon and puncture it with rocks and slingshots, virtually destroying the little boys' friend. Until, that is, all of the balloons in the city congregate to find the boy, and lift him up over the city.

Again, I bring up the film motif of the Alien Visitor that can be most visible in films like Steven Speilberg's E.T. The Extraterrestrial and John Carpenter's Starman. A lonely boy from a seemingly single-parent home makes an alien friend, shows him the world, and is antagonized and destroyed by authorities or those who simply do not understand. Yes, the finale of the film, is most certainly allegorical of a Christ-like resurrection. The film also feels like your a voyeur watching a personal home movie, or bordering on documentary style. Beautiful simplistic cinematography shines throughout. It stands to reason why the film has had a lasting impression with children and adults who connect with the child at heart.