johnlink ranks LE BALLON ROGUE (THE RED BALLOON) (1956)

I wasn’t going to rank this at all, since it comes in at just shy of 40 minutes. But a few things occurred to me while watching this landmark French film. 1) I wanted to talk about it. 2) It won the Oscar for best original screenplay. Being the only short film to win an Academy Award category (other than the ones dedicated to shorts) has to count for something. 3) These are my rankings, my rules, and I can do whatever the hell I want. So, without further adieu, LE BALLON ROGUE…

I watched LE BALLON ROGUE (THE RED BALLOON; 1956) on 12.29.10. It was my first viewing of the film.

If you were to tell me that every new hire at Pixar was required to watch this film, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The sort of whimsy that is on display, especially in Pixar’s shorts, is on full tilt here. This is the colorful, live action story of a little boy who ‘rescues’ a balloon. After spending the day together, the balloon befriends the boy and begins to follow him. They set off on some mild adventures.

The film is nearly silent. Other than children making generic crowd noise, there are less than ten spoken lines in this film. But the script scorches its own trail, as the balloon and boy defend themselves from separation, school, and a crowd of jealous boys.

This is a breathtakingly beautiful film to watch. You can see where the idea of the plastic bag of AMERICAN BEAUTY found its origin, as the balloon bounds around behind the boy, putting the beauty (and sometimes the grunge) of Paris on display. This is a film about friendship and isolation, and about roles and imagination. The final sequence, after a surprisingly sad turn, is magical. This really was like watching a Pixar short come to life (though, in fairness, LE BALLON ROGUE did come out 40-odd years before Pixar was making a name for itself).

As stated in the intro, this film is less that forty minutes. It is worth hunting down. It will be time well spent watching a less-than feature film you won’t forget.



The bonus point is for the beautiful, specific, and memorable cinematography. I immediately wanted to see this film again.



~ by johnlink00 on December 29, 2010.

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