Flight of the Red Balloon (3 stars)

Flight of the Red Balloon

(PG) 113min


Taiwanese New Wave cinema pioneer Hou Hsiao-hsien makes his French language debut with this eloquent drama loosely inspired by Albert Lamorisse’s much-loved 1956 short, The Red Balloon. Taking as its starting point that film’s wonderfully simple idea – a bright red balloon seemingly with a will of its own follows a young boy around the streets of Paris – Hou pursues his thematic interest in the dislocation of modern urban life that he’s explored in his previous films, most recently in the 2004 Tokyo-set Café Lumiere.

Here, the young boy with the inflatable companion is seven-year-old Simon (Simon Iteanu), a charming innocent with a loving but preoccupied mother, a puppeteer named Suzanne (Juliet Binoche). Absorbed by the new show she’s working on, and overwhelmed by the pressures of day-to-day life, Suzanne hires an Asian film student, Song (Song Fang), to look after her neglected son. Here it’s relegated to the role of spectator. It, like the camera-work of Hou and his talented cinematographer Mark Li Ping Bing (In the Mood for Love), remains a passive observer of the lives of the film’s three central characters, but at the same time it emphasises their isolation in a big city. It’s a meditative and melancholy film, but the elegant photography, original use of Parisian locations and captivating performances (particularly by Binoche) makes this Flight of the Red Balloon a trip worth watching.

Filmhouse, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 14 Mar.

The Flight of the Red Balloon

  • 3 stars
  • 2007
  • France
  • 1h 55min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
  • Written by: Hou Hsiao-Hsien, François Margolin
  • Cast: Juliette Binoche, Hippolyte Girardot

Suzanne (Binoche), a busy puppeteer, hires Song (Song), a Chinese film student, to look after her young son. Hsiao-Hsien's film intricately weaves together compassionate insights into the pressures felt by a single parent with studious examinations of the methods of storytelling. Partly inspired by Albert Lamorisse's…

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