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The Red Balloon is Charming; Enchanting and Disturbing, But Ultimately Uplifting! A Wonderful Classic Tear-Jerker!
on 1 October 2008
This is a superb release of two classic 1950's short films, now on Region 2, for those without multi-region players who didn't buy the Region 1 release of a few months ago. Picture and sound quality on both films are excellent and so they should be, as they have been beautifully restored, at great cost, to their original pristine glory.
I originally went to see "The Red Balloon", as the supporting film to the 1956 Royal Performance Film "The Battle of The River Plate" at the now long gone Broadway cinema in Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, on Saturday, April 27th, 1957, one day after my tenth birthday and thought it was totally wonderful. It still looks just as wonderful today, nearly fifty-two years later and you can't say that about many films seen in that era.
You will notice that The Red Balloon has been reclassified from its original "U" rating to that of a "PG." But the British Board of Film Classification, in their wisdom, have, I believe done the right thing here. The film is actually in two parts. Part one is charming and enchanting and funny and lovely. But twenty minutes in, the film suddenly becomes much more serious and has a darker, more ominous tone about it, as the bullies of the neighbourhood appear, intent on not only destroying the happiness that six years old Pascal and his dearest friend, the balloon, have found together, but beating up Pascal and destroying his friend. A large gang of them chase Pascal, as he holds on tightly to his balloon, through the narrow, twisting and turning cobblestoned alleyways and streets of his neighbourhood. Pascal knows that if he and his balloon are caught by these vicious scumbags, it will be the end for both of them and he quite literally is running for their lives. The chase takes on the quality of a terrible nightmare, but one played out not in the darkness of night, but in broad daylight and bright sunlight.
Eventually, the bullies, through sheer weight of numbers, corner and surround Pascal on a hilltop and attack him and try to grab his balloon. But Pascal lets the balloon go and it sails a short distance upward. "Fly away balloon! Fly away!", cries Pascal in desperation. But the balloon will not leave its friend and pays the ultimate price.
These scenes may upset some children with a sensitive nature who have, over the course of the film, come to love the balloon and regard it as a real, living, sentient being. Certainly, I remember being in tears myself when I saw these scenes as a ten year old in April, 1957. I remember feeling upset...a feeling that was only partly alleviated by the spectacular and uplifting ending to the film. Something that seems to say: "There...there...It's alright now...everything's alright now!"
These scenes with the bullies still upset me even today, all these years later. So if you are an adult, watching this with a young child, prepare to hold them and comfort them if they are upset at the murder of Pascal's dearest and most wonderful friend. But, whichever way you look at it, "The Red Balloon" is a superb piece of film making that deservedly won many international awards, including an Academy Award for best screenplay.
"White Mane" is, of course, a completely different film to "The Red Balloon." But there's no mistaking the sheer artistry and talent that has gone into it. Artistry and talent that are undoubtedly the unmistakable hallmarks of Albert Lamorisse, one of the greatest film makers in the history of motion pictures. I highly recommend this DVD of two of his most famous and best loved films.