The Red Balloon
|The Red Balloon|
|Directed by||Albert Lamorisse|
|Produced by||Albert Lamorisse|
|Screenplay by||Albert Lamorisse|
|Music by||Maurice Leroux|
|Edited by||Pierre Gillette|
|Distributed by||Films Montsouris|
The film won numerous awards, including an Oscar for Lamorisse for writing the best original screenplay in 1956 and the Palme d'Or for short films at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. It also became popular with children and educators. It is the only short film to win the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and to receive a nomination for anything besides Best Live Action Short Film.
Lamorisse used his children as actors in the film. His son, Pascal, plays himself in the main role, and his daughter, Sabine, portrays a little girl.
The film, which has a music score but almost no dialogue, tells of Pascal (Pascal Lamorisse), who, on his way to school one morning, discovers a large helium-filled, extremely spherical, red balloon.
As Pascal plays with his new found toy, he realizes it has a mind and will of its own. It begins to follow him wherever he goes, and not rise, at times floating outside his bedroom window, as his mother will not allow it in their apartment.
The balloon follows Pascal through the streets of Paris, and they draw inquisitive looks from adults and the envy of other children as they wander the streets. At one point it enters his classroom, causing an uproar from his classmates. The noise alerts the principal, who becomes angry with him and locks him up in his office until school is over. At another, he and the balloon encounter a little girl (Sabine Lamorisse) with a blue one that also seems to have a mind of its own too, as evidenced by its act of following his.
One Sunday, the balloon is told to stay home, while Pascal and his mother go to church, however, the balloon follows then, through the open window, into the church, causing an uproar, and causing Pascal and his mother being led out by the priest.
In their wanderings around the neighborhood, Pascal and the balloon encounter a gang of bullies, who are envious of the latter, and temporarily steal the balloon, while Pascal is inside the bakery, however,Pascal retrieves it back, and following a chase through the narrow sidewalk alleys,, they soon throw stones at the balloon, and they soon destroy it through the use of slingshots.
The film ends as all the other balloons in Paris come to Pascal's aid and take him on a cluster balloon ride over the city.
- Pascal Lamorisse as Himself
- Georges Sellier
- Edward Auerbach
- Vladimir Popov
- Paul Perey
- René Marion
- Sabine Lamorisse as the Little Girl
- Michel Pezin
The film serves as a color record of the Belleville area of Paris which had fallen into decay by the 1960s, prompting the Parisian government to demolish it as a slum-clearance effort. Part of the site was built up with housing projects; the remainder was left as wasteland for 20 years. Some of what is seen in the film no longer exists: one of the bakeries, the famous Y-shaped staircase situated just beyond the equally famous café "Au Repos de la Montagne," the steep steps of the passage Julien Lacroix where Pascal finds the balloon initially etc., the empty lot where all the battles took place. Instead stands the Parc de Belleville. Only the church still stands.
The film premiered and opened nationwide in France on October 19, 1956; it was released in the United Kingdom on December 23, 1956 (as the supporting film to the 1956 Royal Performance Film The Battle of the River Plate which ensured it a wide distribution) and was released in the United States on March 11, 1957.
It has been featured in many festivals over the years, including the Wisconsin International Children's Film Festival; the Los Angeles Outfest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival; the Wisconsin Film Festival; and others.
Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s this film was popular in elementary classrooms throughout the United States and Canada. A four-minute clip is on the rotating list of programming on Classic Arts Showcase.
Since its first release in 1956, the film has generally received overwhelmingly favorable reviews from critics. The film critic for the New York Times, Bosley Crowther, hailed the simple tale and praised director Lamorisse, writing that "Yet with the sensitive cooperation of his own beguiling son and with the gray-blue atmosphere of an old Paris quarter as the background for the shiny balloon, he has got here a tender, humorous drama of the ingenuousness of a child and, indeed, a poignant symbolization of dreams and the cruelty of those who puncture them."
When the film was re-released in the United States in late 2006 by Janus Films, Entertainment Weekly magazine film critic Owen Gleiberman praised its direction and simple story line that reminded him of his youth, and wrote, "More than any other children's film, The Red Balloon turns me into a kid again whenever I see it...[to] see The Red Balloon is to laugh, and cry, at the impossible joy of being a child again."
Film critic Brian Gibson wrote, "So far, this seems a post-Occupation France happy to forget the blood and death of Hitler's war a decade earlier. But soon people’s occasional, playful efforts to grab the floating, carefree balloon become grasping and destructive. In a gorgeous sequence, light streaming down alleys as children's shoes clack and clatter on the cobblestones, the balloon bouncing between the walls, Pascal is hunted down for his floating pet. Its ballooning sense of hope and freedom is deflated by a fierce, squabbling mass. Then, fortunately, it floats off, with the breeze of magic-realism, into a feeling of escape and peace, The Red Balloon taking hold of Pascal, lifting him out of this rigid, petty, earthbound life."
In a review in The Washington Post, critic Philip Kennicott had a cynical view: "[The film takes] place in a world of lies. Innocent lies? Not necessarily. The Red Balloon may be the most seamless fusion of capitalism and Christianity ever put on film. A young boy invests in a red balloon the love of which places him on the outside of society. The balloon is hunted down and killed on a barren hilltop–-think Calvary–-by a mob of cruel boys. The ending, a bizarre emotional sucker punch, is straight out of the New Testament. Thus is investment rewarded-–with Christian transcendence or, at least, an old-fashioned Assumption. This might be sweet. Or it might be a very cynical reduction of the primary impulse to religious faith."
- Prix Louis Delluc: Prix Louis Delluc; Albert Lamorisse; 1956.
- Cannes Film Festival: Palme d'Or du court métrage/Golden Palm; Best Short Film, Albert Lamorisse; 1956.
- Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Writing, Best Original Screenplay, Albert Lamorisse; 1957.
- British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Award; Special Award, France; 1957.
- National Board of Review: Top Foreign Films; 1957.
- Best Film of the Decade Educational Film Award.
Video and DVD
The film was first released on VHS by Embassy Home Entertainment in 1984. A laserdisc of it was later released by The Criterion Collection in 1986, and was produced by Criterion, Janus Films, and Voyager Press. Included in it was Lamorisse's award-winning short White Mane (1953). A DVD version became available in 2008, and a Blu-Ray version was released in the United Kingdom on January 18, 2010; it has now been confirmed as region-free.
A tie-in book was published, using black and white and color stills from the film. A soundtrack, featuring music adapted from the film by Lamorisse, was released on the Nonesuch Records label.
The film was adapted for the stage by Anthony Clark, and was performed at the Royal National Theatre in 1996. It has inspired Flight of the Red Balloon, a 2007 French feature film, directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien and starring Juliette Binoche.
- The Red Balloon at the Internet Movie Database.
- The Red Balloon at AllMovie
- Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times. March 12, 1957. Accessed July 29, 2013.
- Gleiberman, Owen. Entertainment Weekly, "Hope Floats," November 30, 2007. Accessed July 29, 2013.
- Gibson, Brian. Vue Weekly, "What childhood films are these?" Issue #634: Jingle Bell Rock!, December 11, 2007. Accessed July 29, 2013.
- Kennicott, Philip. The Washington Post, "Red Balloon and White Mane: Childhood Colored by Adult Cynicism," November 23, 2007; Page C01. Accessed July 29, 2013.
- The Red Balloon at Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed July 29, 2013.
- The Red Balloon, IMDb, Awards section, ibid.
- "Awards 1956:Competition". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved July 29, 2013..
- The Red Balloon, IMDb, Awards section, ibid.
- BAFTA. Film: Special Award in 1957 (competitive), at the official web site of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
- National Board of Review. Awards for 1957, NBR web site. Accessed: July 29, 2013.
- Note is written on an English credited copy of the film. No reliable web source for this information.
- The Red Balloon at Janus Films; web site includes trailer of film for viewing. Accessed: July 29, 2013.
- Dr. Svet Atanasov. "The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray Review". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved July 29, 2013..
- The Red Balloon, Anthony Clark. London: Oberon Books ,2000, ISBN 978-1-84002-079-3
- The Red Balloon at Janus Films (official web site)
- The Red Balloon at the Internet Movie Database
- The Red Balloon at AllMovie
- The Red Balloon at the TCM Movie Database
- The Red Balloon information site and DVD/Blue-ray review at DVD Beaver (includes images)
- Le Ballon rouge at Cinefeed (French)
- on YouTube (Janus Films account)