The Red Balloon

The Red Balloon


Reviewed by: Caro Ness

This short film won the Oscar for best screenplay, the Prix Louis Delluc for Albert Lamorisse and the Palme D’Or of 1956. Why? Because it is a rare masterpiece. It is a fantastic story, told in the most minimalist way, with very few lines of dialogue, from a child’s perspective.

The lack of any embroidery makes it timeless and yet its very simplicity is its towering achievement because it is an allegory on the power of love and the perseverance and loyalty that forms part of friendship. In 30 minutes we are treated to a story that teaches us more about the resilience of the human spirit and the triumphs it can achieve over hardships and injustices than many films three or four times as long. More than that, it reveals how nature can change in order to make the seemingly impossible happen. This is a true testament to all that is good.

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The performance of the director’s six-year old son, Pascal Lamorisse, who, with the red balloon, dominates the film, is nothing short of miraculous. Touching, true, endearing, his performance is crucial to the success of the film, and boy does he deliver.

The essence of the story is that this little boy, like most of us, is searching for something meaningful in a life that is mundane and into it comes something beautiful and rare, the red balloon, which shows him unswerving loyalty and devotion. The balloon brings him great joy and simple delight as he develops a relationship with it. The adults have little time for the balloon, but the other children all want to possess it. When they cannot do so, they choose to destroy it. However, the balloon does not allow the boy to be downcast.

The cinematography is great – the special effects with the balloon are captivating (particularly given that it was filmed in 1956) and the wonderful camerawork and editing really bring the alleyways of Paris to life. It is sad that Belleville, where it was filmed, was razed to the ground in the late 1960s but wonderful that we have this visual record of Paris past. The music also makes a significant contribution to the film’s success. The gentle melody that accompanies the balloon somehow allows us to participate in the magic of believing that a balloon, trailing a bit of string, can display devotion, intelligence, wit and loyalty and the ability to resurrect itself.

On whatever level you view this film, it is beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity. It is a magical film that remains with you long after you watch it. Indeed, it is not something you will easily forget for the rest of your life. This is a huge compliment to pay a short film that has, until now, unjustly slipped into oblivion. To see it resurrected on DVDs alongside White Mane and The Flight Of The Red Balloon is an enormous pleasure and one it richly deserves. This film should be required viewing.

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2008
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Classic short film about a boy and his friendship with a balloon.
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Director: Albert Lamorisse

Writer: Albert Lamorisse

Starring: Pascal Lamorisse, Georges Sellier, Vladimir Popov, Paul Perey, René Marion, Sabine Lamorisse, Michel Pezin, Renaud, David Séchan

Year: 1956

Runtime: 34 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: France


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