The Red Balloon / White Mane DVD
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Directed by Albert Lamorisse
Produced in 1953; 1956
Main Language - French with English subtitles
A pairing of magical films. The Red Balloon shows a balloon with a life of its own following a young boy through the streets of Paris, while White Mane (aka Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage) sees a boy find a white-maned wild horse in the Camargue. Ranchers seek to capture it, but it escapes, and the boy sets out to find it again.
White Mane won the Grand Prize of the Festival at Cannes, while The Red Balloon won an Oscar and the Palme d'Or.
Publisher: Network Releasing
Length: 79 mins
Aspect ratio: 1:1.33 (4:3) Standard
Cat No: 7952898
Format: DVD Colour
by David Parkinson on 30th October 2008
Over 50 years after its initial release, The Red Balloon (1956) remains a work of wonderment. It’s not simply because Albert Lamorisse made such a superb job of disgui... Read on
Over 50 years after its initial release, The Red Balloon (1956) remains a work of wonderment. It’s not simply because Albert Lamorisse made such a superb job of disguising the special effects that enabled a balloon on a piece of string to take on a life of its own as it sails across the rooftops of Paris. Nor is it because the director coaxed such a miraculous display of spirited innocence out of his six year-old son, Pascal. The enchantment lies in the fact that this 34-minute gem reminds us all of the love we invested in our most treasured childhood possession, while also making us feel a pang of shame at belonging to such an acquisitive society.
Beautifully photographed by Edmond Séchan and charmingly scored by Maurice Leroux, the action has all the playfulness of a cartoon and the exquisite timing of a slapstick comedy. Wafts of Chaplin and Tati keep the balloon bouyant, whether it’s refusing to come to heel on command or taunting the old misery guts who punishes Pascal for bringing such a disruptive toy to school. But even when Lamorisse introduces a note of menace (when the bullies chase boy and balloon down the atmospheric alleyways of Ménilmontant) or indulges in a soupçon of sentiment during the uplifting finale, he judges the tone to a tee. This is a masterclass in storytelling and there’s no wonder that Lamorisse’s ‘Best Original Screenplay’ triumph remains the only time a short has won an Oscar outside its designated category.
The film is available in two sets, partnered with either White Mane or The Flight of the Red Balloon. Sharing much the same theme, White Mane tells of a bid to keep a wild horse out of the clutches of cruel Camargue gardians. The contributions of Séchan and Leroux are again superb, but it’s Lamorisse’s sensitivity to light and landscape that make it so memorable. Hou Hsiao-hsien catches the same spirit in The Flight of the Red Balloon, in which the balloon this time symbolises freedom in an increasingly impersonal Paris.