In Paris, Chinese cinema student Song Fang is hired to work as the nanny of Simon by his divorced mother Suzanne, who works voicing marionettes in a theater. Suzanne is having troubles with her tenant Marc, who does not pay the rent, while she waits for the return of her older daughter Louise, who lives with her father in Brussels. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
An Extemporaneous Homage to Albert Lamorisse's THE RED BALLOON
Somewhere the highly regarded Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien had the idea of paying homage to the 1956 classic Albert Lamorisse film THE RED BALLOON, a tender story of a child's interaction with a nearly animate floating balloon, and while there is indeed an short introduction of a small boy addressing an errant red balloon floating in Paris, the 'homage' stops there. What follows is an overly long, frustratingly impromptu series of scenes that lack cohesion and resolution.
THE FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON (Le Voyage du balloon rouge) is a prolonged (113 minutes) series of scenes that stutter along with the same sort of wandering course of the occasionally visible red balloon to present moments in the life of a disheveled, frumpy, single mother Suzanne (Juliette Binoche) whose income depends on her fascination and obsession with Chinese marionette presentations for which she supplies the backstage voice for all of the characters. Her absent 'husband/boyfriend' has left her to write in Montreal while Suzanne must care for her young son Simon (Simon Iteanu) with the help of a newly hired Taiwanese photographer nanny Song (Fang Song) while her daughter resides in Brussels. This disheveled household is further complicated by the freeloading Marc (Hippolyte Girardot), the friend of her absentee 'husband', by Simon's piano lessons taught by Anna (Anna Sigalevitch), and by impossible conflicting schedules for marionette performances, partially relieved by Song's quiet ability to take Simon on adventures outside the confines of the cluttered little space they all call home. The only quieting element of this film is the occasional appearance of the 'guardian angel' red balloon, which seems to be a symbol for defining the real world of Simon and the illusory world he craves. The dialogue as written by Hou and François Margolin is choppy and the camera work and constant meandering piano music seem extemporaneous: there are few resolutions to the individual stories that are only hinted. Juliette Binoche is a solid actress able to make the most of a minimal script and horrendous costuming and makeup: her moments of being the voice of marionettes are magical. But this Red Balloon just doesn't take flight in the context of this homage. As with the rest of the film the balloon just floats off at the end. The viewer needs a lot of patience with this film! Grady Harp
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