Cinema Express: The Red Balloon (1956)


For most audiences, the short film is a lost art form that was never found to begin with. Though films festivals around the world as well as the Academy Awards recognize numerous films in this category each year, the general public hasn’t quite caught on. But aspiring filmmakers of the craft need not worry, for their time is nearing. With the invention of the Internet came several resources that have made short films a more accessible art. For example, YouTube has not only made professional short films easier to watch, but also encourages creations from amateur filmmakers. iTunes as well, sells the latest and most successful shorts, usually available at a fairly reasonable price. So while they may not receive the same amount of commercial success that feature-length movies enjoy, the popularity of short films has escalated quickly during the last decade and shows no sign of plateauing.

The Red Balloon follows a young Parisian boy who lives in an apartment with his mother, treks through the city to school each day by himself, and one morning stumbles onto a bright, shiny red balloon. The balloon soon becomes an inseparable companion to the boy, so much so that it doesn’t float away when the youth loses hold of the orb’s string. The story is told in a straightforward and realistic manner, avoiding the senseless potty humor that plagues so many of today’s family-oriented films.

Director Lamorisse’s style approaches realism, but he wisely keeps his film from becoming an overly harsh portrayal of the boy’s adventure. There is a sense of energetic fun buried within the core of The Red Balloon which can only be accounted for by the human-like, care-free movements of the balloon. Lamorisse wisely includes as little dialogue as possible, establishing a playful, almost cartoonish tone. His film has a heart, as it proves by the finale, one of the purest and most enchanting examples of the irresistible magic of the movies. The ending, which is undoubtedly the highlight of the entire half-hour, is as joyous and triumphant as you are likely to ever see. It is a fitting bookend to an emotional, enjoyable, and wonderfully transportive children’s short.


12 responses to “Cinema Express: The Red Balloon (1956)

  1. I have been recommended this multiple times but have shamefully never seen it, despite it being a short movie. Looks like I’ll have to make some time to see it. Nice review.

    • I don’t watch too many either to be honest, but this one is great. I watched it on Netflix Instant a while ago. I’m not sure if its on YouTube, but I bet it is. If it isn’t, you could more easily find it on the Criterion DVD.

  2. Pingback: Movie Report Card: May 2013 | Cinema Train·

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