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Red Balloon, The (DVD Review)

27 Apr, 2008 By: John Latchem

Street 4/29/08
$14.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Pascal Lamorisse.

Has it really bean 50 years since the debut of the timeless childrens tale The Red Balloon? The French short film first opened in 1956, came to America in 1957, and for many years was a staple in elementary-school classrooms.

It tells the simple story of young Pascal, who while walking to school finds a shiny red balloon. He discovers the balloon has a mind of its own and begins to follow him around Paris. This attracts the jealously of a small mob of bullies, who hunt down the balloon to pop it. The sad destruction of innocence is quickly righted in a whimsical ending that finds Pascal rescued from his mundane existence by all the balloons in Paris.

Despite its minimal dialogue and short (34-minute) running length, creator Albert Lamorisse won the Oscar for best original screenplay.

I remember seeing The Red Balloon several times growing up, and this new DVD version from Criterion and Janus Films looks as if it hasn’t aged a bit.

The story of an inanimate object imbued with the force of life brings to mind another favorite film of my childhood, Disney’s The Love Bug, which featured a magical car instead of a balloon. The ending of its sequel, Herbie Rides Again, with its legion of Volkswagon Beetles roaring to life, seems eerily reminiscent of the end of The Red Balloon, though not as awe-inspiring.

For a Criterion release, however, the DVD is surprisingly devoid of extras. I would have expected at least some sort of retrospective featurette, or perhaps Lamorisse’s 1960 sequel, Stowaway in the Sky. Or perhaps the humorous 2000 parody sequel Revenge of the Red Balloon, in which the balloon return to seek vengeance against the now middle-aged bullies who popped it 40 years earlier (watch it at AtomFilms.com).

Bare as it is, this DVD will have to do for collectors hoping to rekindle feelings of youth or share their childhood treasures with a new generation.

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