The Red Balloon is a 1956 multi-award-winning French fantasy featurette (any film between 24 and 40 minutes) directed by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse (1922-1970). A simple work of magical realism with little dialogue and a rich music score, it explores the everyday joys and disappointments of childhood. It is shot in the Ménilmontant area of Paris and tells the story of a little boy called Pascal (Pascal Lamorisse – the director’s son) and his companion – a bright red sentient helium balloon. The director’s daughter, Sabine Lamorrise, makes a brief appearance in the film as a girl with a seemingly sentient blue balloon of her own.
Pascal discovers the balloon one morning and develops a relationship with it as it follows him through the gorgeous streets of Paris through the day while inquisitive adults and envious children look on. The balloon, which has a somewhat mischievous mind and will, ends up putting the boy in trouble in the classroom and church.
Finally, when a gang of bullies destroys it with slingshots, the balloons of the locality – all colours – rise up in revolt, gather to form a cluster above Pascal and take him for a ride over the city.
A great favourite of critics and filmmakers, The Red Balloon has been deemed “one of the all-time greatest examples of pure cinema”, “a cinematic landmark”, “an example of timeless magic” and “one of the most beloved films of all time” [as mentioned in Discovering Short Films: The History and Style of Live-Action Fiction Shorts (2015) by Cynthia Felando].
Watch a short video celebrating the film from the New York Times:
Featured: Detail of screenshot, The Red Balloon, Films Montsouris. Used for illustrative purposes only. No Copyright Infringement intended.