DOM: The Red Balloon (Lamorisse, France, 1955)

Once a year, sometimes twice I still enjoy a weekend away camping in the Lake District and in-between the walking, myself and friends like to enjoy some of the local beverages. Whilst frequenting the watering holes of Cumbria we usually like to spend hours playing the strategy board game “Risk”.It was invented in 1957 by Albert Lamorisse, a French director who at the time, had just won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for La Ballon Rouge or The Red Balloon.

Albert Lamorisse was born in France in 1922 and first came to prominence for his 1953 short The White Mane in which a young boy (his son Pascal) encounters an untamable white wild stallion.

Two years later he used his son again as Pascal in the story of The Red Balloon.

On his way to school Pascal finds a huge helium filed red balloon and we follow their day together. He soon realizes it has a life of it’s own as he finds it floating outside his bedroom when Pascal’s mother won’t let it into the apartment. It continues to cause problems at school and on the tram before a gang of bullies get jealous and destroy his new friend. The balloons of Paris gather together and take him on a cluster balloon trip over the city.

The film remains a valuable colour record of the Belleville area of Paris that fell into decay in the 60s and was cleared by the Parisian government. Only the Church Of Notre Dame de la Croix is all that now remains; which is such a shame, the Paris of Delicatessen or Amelie is found here.

We watched this film on a Dirk night special. It still looked really good on VHS and we wondered how did they do that? I believe on DVD the clean up means you know exactly how they did that because you can see all the wires.

Lamorisse continued to work in the cinema and went on to direct the features Stowaway In The Sky and Circus Angel as well as a host of shorts. He died in 1970 in Iran in a helicopter crash whilst filming. As of June 2012 the helicopter is still in the tree where it crashed as a mark of respect.

The film, which is mute apart from music and sound effects remained a regular fixture on TV in the 70s and early 80s; it remains a fond memory for many people of a certain age and I believe it to be perhaps the greatest short film ever made.

One response to “DOM: The Red Balloon (Lamorisse, France, 1955)

  1. Got there before me. The colours are startling, the way that everything is washed-out except for the balloon.

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