Friday, April 4, 2008

Flight of the Red Balloon (Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge) FRENCH

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Neglected Boy Bonds with Nanny in Surreal Cinematic Escape

Seven year-old Simon (Simon Iteanu) is being raised by a berserk single-mom (Juliette Binoche) so overwhelmed by her assorted responsibilities that she dumps him in the care of a new babysitter (Fang Song) who doesn’t even know where they live. The trouble is that puppeteer Suzanne is currently consumed with putting the finishing touches on her next show when not fighting with her troublesome downstairs tenant (Hippolyte Giradot).
By contrast, Song, a nanny from Taiwan, is a relatively-mellow soul. She also happens to be a film school student who wants to make a picture with the very imaginative child now entrusted in her care. Seems that she is able to escape to a parallel universe where Simon is followed everywhere he goes by a big red balloon, a development reminiscent of the 1956 French classic “The Red Balloon” about a peripatetic Parisian boy also trailed by what else but a red balloon.
This praiseworthy homage, directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou, doesn’t provide much of a linear plotline worth following, unless you care to be distracted by foul-mouthed Suzanne’s annoying caterwaul and her selfish concerns. Rather, this is a flick designed to be appreciated for its more subtle moments, those evocative interludes shared by the virtually abandoned child and his sensitive au pair as they perambulate the urban exoskeleton of an enchantingly-framed City of Light.
A slight, surreal cinematic experiment apt to enthrall the more discerning theatergoer, while leaving the mundane masses scratching their heads and asking, “Is that it?”

Very good (3 stars)
In French with subtitles.
Running time: 113 minutes
Studio: IFC Films

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