Flight Of The Red Balloon Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Flight Of The Red Balloon Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Taiwanese art house director Hou (Millennium Mambo, Café Lumière) cops a riff from the classic 1956 French short, The Red Balloon, about a balloon that follows a lonely boy around Paris. Hou expands that premise by using the balloon as a device to follow the lives of a harried, bleached blonde divorcee (Juliette Binoche), her precocious son (Simon Iteanu) and his Chinese nanny (Song Fang), who’s an aspiring filmmaker. Reportedly, Hou wrote the script without dialogue then discussed each scene with his actors, who made up their lines in only one take. The result injects the film with a naturalism found in documentaries. Sometimes this approach works, particularly when Binoche’s tough single mother has to deal with a troublesome tenant (Hippolyte Girardot) in her apartment building, or juggles her home life with her job as a voice artist at a puppet theatre. The film slows whenever Binoche exits the screen, since Simon and Song’s walks through Parisian streets meander. There is no crisis to propel this film, nor any character arcs to trace. In fact, not much happens in The Flight of the Red Balloon, which is the film’s major weakness. Sure, Hou captures the atmosphere of a congested and alienating Paris but that isn’t enough to sustain a two-hour movie. Red Balloon is not to everyone’s tastes and will try the patience of some. This DVD’s absence of any supplementary material, including a standard "making of” featurette, reduces its audience to the already converted. As a mood piece, The Flight of the Red Balloon succeeds. However, others like myself expect more than just atmosphere in our films. (Paradox)