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FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Seven year old Simon (Simon Iteanu) spies a red balloon that seems to be following him around Paris. His mother Suzanne (Juliette Binoche) is a single parent who voices the puppet shows she writes. She hires Taiwanese film student Song (Song Fang) as a nanny, who becomes involved in their lives.

Review by Louise Keller:
It's easy to become impatient and frustrated watching Hsiao-Hsien Hou 's fly-on-the-wall film that found its inspiration from Albert Lamorisse's 1956 classic film The Red Balloon. The problem isn't that nothing happens - the idea of a slice-of-life look at a family's life in Paris has plenty of appeal - it is a combination of the somewhat clunky style coupled with repetitive, improvised dialogue that is its downfall. It is no fault of the actors however, and Juliette Binoche is as engaging as ever as the busy, preoccupied single mother who is juggling her roles as mother, creative puppeteer and landlady.

As the film begins, a little boy talks to a red balloon that is negotiating its path through a leafy tree by a train station. "If you come I'll give you something..." he chants before the camera follows the red ball as it soars into the sky, past bridges, trains and rooftops. Then we are in the car with Binoche's Suzanne as she drives to pick up her son, introduce him to the new nanny (Song Fang), a former film student from Beijing who uses her small hand-held camera to make a film. We become immersed in daily life ... the traffic, the cafes ... The scenes are like snapshots: little boy playing pinball, walking home chatting about nothing in particular, piano lessons, going to the park. There is a non-stop coming and going of people at Suzanne's house and talk about people we never meet. There's a long out of focus shot of children on a merry-go-round and another terminally long shot of a dirty window in a train while the camera pans backwards and forwards.

Punctuated by the music, the mood throughout is melancholy; highlight for me is the inclusion of Charles Aznavour's Emenez Moi (Take Me Away) from the juke box, played almost in its entirety. My criticism isn't that nothing much happens but because it is shot in such a tedious way. Many will become irritated and bored; watching eggs being cracked for pancakes could be riveting to watch, but not here. Despite its immediacy and some insights into Parisian life, the dialogue irritates and there is not enough of interest to keep me engaged.

DVD special features include Hsiao-Hsien Hou interview, Albert Lamarisse's original 1956 Oscar-winning short The Red Balloon and short White Mane: The Wild Horse plus trailer.

Published September 11, 2008

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CRITICAL COUNT
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Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON: DVD (PG)
(France/Taiwan, 2007)

Le Voyage du ballon rouge

CAST: Juliette Binoche, Simon Iteanu, Fang Song, Hippolyte Girardot, Louise Margolin, Anna Sigalevitch

PRODUCER: Kristina Larsen, François Margolin

DIRECTOR: Hsiao-hsien Hou

SCRIPT: Hsiao-hsien Hou, François Margolin

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pin Bing Lee

EDITOR: Jean-Christophe Hym, Ching-Song Liao

MUSIC: Not credited

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Charlie Cappagli (Art department)

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 29, 2008

PRESENTATION: Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Interview with director Hsao-hsien, Albert Lamorisse's original 1956 short The Red Balloon, Lamarisse's 1954 short White Mane: The Wild Horse

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

DVD RELEASE: September 10, 2008







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