Homage to a classic short film

(Canscene) — How many people today recall that delightful French short film The Red Balloon?

In 34 minutes, director Albert Lamourisse filmed a red balloon following a child through various encounters in the streets of Paris . In 1957 he was awarded a special Palme D’or and an Oscar for his work.

Now 50 years later Taiwanese minimalist director Hou Hsaio Hsien pays homage to that classic with The Flight of the Red Balloon and takes nearly two hours with his tribute – two hours during which nothing much happened but continually absorbed me.

The main characters, Suzanne, a stressed out Parisian actress (Juliette Binoche) who works in puppet theatre and her young son Simon (Simon Iteaneau) await the arrival of Suzanne’s other child who lives in Brussels with her father, divorced from Suzanne. Song, a young Chinese film maker who studies in Paris, becomes Simon’s Nanny and the three become friends.


Once again the red balloon becomes part of the flimsy story. It flies over Paris at changing levels like a cross between guardian angel and detached observer.

As always, La Binoche is a joy to watch and translates Suzanne’s changing moods with total believability. The scenes in which she’s seen and heard voicing Chinese puppets are sheer delight.

Director Hien has done much with little. Very much.

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