Friday, November 09, 2007

Le Voyage du ballon rouge (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 2007)

The Flight of the Red Balloon (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 2007)
Rating: 8.3

Hou homages Albert Lamorisse's short film The Red Balloon while simultaneously exploring Paris, and adapting Félix Vallotton's painting Le ballon ou coin de parc avec enfant jouant au ballon (1899) to celluloid in this meditative glance at a broken home. As Suzanne's (Juliette Binoche) life becomes more chaotic, (characterized by her messy home) while balancing her divorce with her husband, problems with tenants, her job (narrating puppet shows), and spending time with her son Simon as well as her daughter living in Brussels, she hires a Nanny, named Song, a student of cinema from Beijing, to look after Simon, who is enchanted by a red balloon that haunts his imagination.

"Suzanne’s puppetry can be seen as linked to the puppetry of the red balloon (which, like the camera, moves as often gracefully as it does unnaturally) and Song’s explanation that, at least in her short film, a man who will be digitally erased later controls the movement of the balloon. These forms of control (Simon too seeks control, playing videogames, using Song’s camera, and is a pinball junkie) contrasts with Hou’s loose and easy style, as well as a narrative structure that, feels built out of a much larger filmed story that has been purposefully whittled down and elided to result in, for Pialat, long snatches of intensity, and in Hou’s case mostly the languorous moments between intensity, the everyday moments."

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