The Flight Of The Red Balloon

The Flight Of The Red Balloon

***

Reviewed by: Caro Ness

The reviews of this film have been mixed. Some have found it too art-house minimalist and slow, while others have praised Juliette Binoche for her best performance ever. I think it falls somewhere between these two extremes.

It does not begin to approach the brilliance of the simple yet exquisitely beautiful The Red Balloon to which it pays homage and yet it has much to recommend it. The film follows Simon (Simon Iteanu) and his Vietnamese nanny Song (Song Fang) as they spend time going about their lives. Song is a film student, making a film about the red balloon that seems to be omnipresent in their lives. The cinematography of Paris is stunning and the soundtrack is beautifully judged to add to the feel and flavour of the Parisian parks and streets.

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By contrast, much of the movie is filmed in the cramped apartment that belongs to Simon’s mother Suzanne, This is a deliberate move to engender a feeling of claustrophobia. Suzanne, (Juliette Binoche) is a beleaguered single parent who is battling with her husband - who has been in Canada "writing a book" - and is reaching the end of her tether with her tenant who does not pay the rent and takes endless liberties with his landlady’s belongings, whilst making a meagre living as a puppeteer. Binoche is undeniably good as Suzanne. Her performance seems almost spontaneous and she draws the eye to her immediately in every scene in which she appears.

I have to say that the film ultimately felt to me like a documentary with a particularly brilliant cinematographer filming the family’s every move. Hsiao-hsien Hou’s intention in paying homage to Lamorisse’s brilliant original is admirable and who can blame him for trying to emulate the enchantment that pervaded that film? I don’t believe anyone else would have done any better than this because it is a beautiful film to look at but in the end the emotion and passion are missing. This film will resonate with you for a while but long after this film is forgotten, the original Red Balloon will be flying!

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2008
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A busy mother’s young boy attracts the attention of a large balloon.
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Paul Griffiths ***1/2

Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Writer: Hou Hsiao-Hsien, François Margolin

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Simon Iteanu, Song Fang, Hippolyte Girardot

Year: 2007

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France


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