“The Red Balloon” is a 1956 short film written, produced, and directed by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse. It was filmed in and takes place in the Belleville neighborhood in Paris and follows a little boy who discovers a bright red, helium filled balloon. The film is simple but it’s one of the most tender and enchanting pictures you’ll have the pleasure of watching. At only 34 minutes long, it manages to pack more heart and authenticity into it’s running time than most feature-length movies of today.
Young Pascal (played by Lamorisse’s son Pascal) discovers a beautiful red balloon on his way to school one morning. He proudly walks along the streets of Paris with his new balloon while encountering a wide assortment of people, some friendly and some not so friendly. But over time we begin to believe the balloon has a mind of its own and a wonderful relationship develops between it and Pascal. It’s hard to believe but Lamorisse manages to make the balloon a true character in the film and we have no problems investing in this little boy’s attraction to and love for his red balloon.
We the audience basically just sit back and watch this young boy. There is almost no dialogue throughout the film, only a beautiful and appropriate score used at just the right times. But dialogue isn’t needed. The visual narrative is perfectly structured and paced and there’s not one thing that more dialogue could add that would improve on what we’re given. Young Pascal’s expressions, the beauty of Paris – even in this working class area, the amazing handling of the balloon, and the incredible camera work all contribute to grabbing us and wrapping us up in the wonderfully visual story.
“The Red Balloon” has received a lot of praise and rightly so. In fact, it’s one of the few short films to ever win a major Academy Award category (Best Original Screenplay). I was completely engaged throughout this short picture. And even during the couple of times where I felt I was missing what Lamorisse was saying, I was still wrapped up. “The Red Balloon” is a magical meditation on the innocence of a child’s imagination meeting the harshness of reality. But there’s more to it than just that and for my money, it’s one of those rare movies that is impossible to dislike. If you haven’t seen it, take 34 minutes and experience it. It’s worth the time.