I first saw this delightful film by Albert Lamorisse at the one “art theater” in Atlanta in the 1970’s. Even showing it was a bit of an act of love, since the financial incentives played against it. Half an hour in length, it was not a “stand alone” movie. It had to be a “leader” for another film, which just might have stood alone itself. Fortunately, George didn’t usually think that way. He really loved good movies… and felt compelled to share, and educate. Now this movie, and so many other short movies can stand on their own, being downloaded at the viewer’s convenience.
I must have seen the movie five times, and read the book, in French, Le Ballon Rouge (French edition of "The Red Balloon" to my children ten times. It was a favorite. It was first released in 1956, the end of the first decade of “les annees trente glorious,” the 30 years of glorious economic development in France after the Second World War. Things still appeared a bit shabby, with the building facades and shutters unfinished and unpainted for so many years, still, and often enveloped in smog. The film was shot in Paris, in the Ménilmontant section, which is in the 20th arrondissement, on the hill, near Pere Lachaise and Belleville, which provides scenic backdrops of the central portion of the city. The buses had standing platforms on the back, which were phased out by the time of my first visit in 1971 (how many people fell off before the phase out?) ‘Tis a shame, since I always considered that an “essential” part of the Parisian experience. And all the people in the movie were white, and not by selection, since there were numerous street scenes. The movie commences with Pascal petting a street cat.
Many a kid has developed an attachment for a teddy bear, or another stuffed animal. Pascal’s attachment is for a very bright large helium balloon; the attachment is anthropomorphically reciprocated. A special relationship that a lot of adults, and even other kids try to thwart. His mother throws it out the window. The bus conductor will not allow it on the bus. And the school principal, grim and humorless, as are so many, goes berserk, as the balloon threatens his dignity. Pascal does receive a couple minutes of playful empathy from a girl his age carrying a blue balloon. Ah, and then there is the horrible jealousy of one’s peers, and it was in this book that I learn the literal and more metaphorical meaning of “voyous.” A glorious fantasy ending, that I had to puzzle as to how it was actually filmed.
Albert Lamorisse utilized his own children Pascal and Sabine in this film. In reviewing his bio I learned that he was the creator of the game of “Risk,” which I have played many a time in my own youth. Albert Lamorisse died at the age of 48, in 1970, in a helicopter crash during the filming of a film, “The Lover’s Wind” (Le Vent des amoureux) in Iran. His wife and Pascal would finish and release the film eight years later. 5-stars plus for this marvelous legacy.
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