Over the weekend, I stayed out of the 100+ degree heat and watched a couple French Films, one of which was the Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon). I find it hard to believe that I had not seen this film before, but I must say I really enjoyed it. (And you can watch it on Netflix Instant View streaming video.)
The only short film ever to win an Oscar for best original screenplay, Albert Lamorisse tells the story of young Pascal (Lamorisse’s own son Pascal), a nine-year-old Parisian boy living an ordinary life in a sketchy Parisian neighborhood until the day that a large red balloon mysteriously floats into his life.
In this film, Lamorisse portrays Paris unlike what you have probably seen in most other films. There are no gorgeous shots of the Eifel Tower or Notre Dame. The sky is overcast, there are dull gray buildings flanking gray cobblestone streets with people in gray suits. Then in the midst of it, there is a single red balloon. I love how the color just pops!
The cinematography is sophisticated and elegant, as the film tells the story of this magical red balloon and the beautiful friendship formed between it and Pascal. Together as they walk the streets of Paris, the balloon provides the only pop of color in the boy’s mostly gray world.
There is barely a word spoken throughout this 34-minute film, so do not worry about subtitles or speaking French. In addition, if you have children, I highly recommend watching it with them. The film portrays the secret lives of children but doesn’t talk down to them or disrespect their fears or their loves.
Director: Albert Lamorisse
Writer: Albert Lamorisse
Stars: Pascal Lamorisse, Sabine Lamorisse and Georges Sellier