The Red Balloon.
One of my earliest childhood memories is watching the The Red Balloon at my Grandparents house. It was pretty much the first thing that my sister and I would request to watch when we there. It either means I was an early proponent at age 5 of French New Wave filmmaking, or, as is more likely, I was enthralled with this most simple, most heartbreaking and most innovative films you might ever see.
Filmed in 1956 by Albert Lamorisse, it stars his son, Pascal, and a sentient Red Balloon. The Balloon follows Pascal around the run-down, still very Post-war district of Bellevillé in Paris. From school to home, over the course of the short, he builds an emotional attachment to the Balloon, which is cruelly stamped out by his fellow schoolkids, culminating in an ending both heart-rending (the death scene of the balloon will make any heart break) and fantastical in equal measure. Let’s just say UP has alot to thank The Red Balloon for.
The film itself won at Cannes, as well as winning Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars that year. In this excellent in-depth essay on the film by Brian Selznick he touches on the things that make the film such a wonderful experience even now. The ‘magic’ that makes the Balloon appear to be more than just an object, the intensity of the relationship that develops over the course of the film mirrors our most intimate connections as an adult. Yet for all the metaphors and symbolism that can be attached to the film as an adult watching it, Selznick concludes that this film is best watched through the eyes of a child. As a beautiful, simple story.
The film has been made available to watch on YouTube, and I urge all, young and old, those with kids especially, to watch the film and revel in this magical bit of storytelling.