With Disney/Pixar's latest animated feature "Up!" about to premier in theaters, I thought this would be the perfect time to visit another film featuring a little boy who takes flight, courtesy of a huge bouquet of colorful, helium-filled balloons.
"The Red Balloon" (1956, Albert Lamorisse) is a short French film that I originally saw on a grade-school field trip to the public library (on a double-bill with the Chuck Jones animated "The Phantom Tollbooth").
This charming little film, telling its story in just over half an hour and with very little dialog, follows a child who encounters a friendly red balloon on his way to school in the Menilmontant section of Paris.
Using carefully disguised wires and occasional camera trickery, the red balloon bobs and twists, ducks and jumps, hides and teases like a stray puppy. The simple effects hold up very well, even in this modern day of CGI magic.
This is a simple and wonderful film that every child should see. So what's an enchanting little piece like "The Red Balloon" doing in the spooky old Haunted Closet?
Because it doesn't take long for the rest of the neighborhood children to notice the little boy's special friend.
And what does any unruly mob do? Why, visit senseless violence on the object of their envy, of course.
After separating the child from his balloon, the ruthless gang throws rocks at it until a slow leak prevents it from floating to safety.
The final death blow is delivered by the Buster Brown's of some anonymous hooligan.
It's in the midst of this tragedy that various balloons from throughout the town untether themselves and float towards the boy, to comfort him.
And then its up...
"The Red Balloon" is available in a beautifully restored Janus Films/Criterion Collection DVD here.
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