Flight of the Red Balloon

Flight of the Red Balloon/Le voyage du baloon rouge (France, 2007, 115 mins.): Film scholars Chris Berry and Feii Lu have identified director Hou Hsiao-hsien as one of the key figures inaugurating the “Taiwan New Cinema,” with Hou's “observational realism” offering a significant stylistic index to this body of work. His observational realist mode lends itself perfectly to the Flight of the Red Balloon, as Hou pays homage to Albert Lamorisse's award-winning 1956 short film “Le ballon rouge.” Juliette Binoche plays a puppet theater voice artist, who hires a Beijing film student (Song Fang) to babysit her young son. The boy is intrigued by a mysterious red balloon that seems to trail him everywhere, as if it were an angelic presence watching over him. Director Hou works this slender narrative premise into a film of great imagistic beauty. The semiotic serenity of the red balloon floating quietly around and over Paris offers a calming counterpoint to the disquiet experienced in the everyday life of Binoche's frenzied and troubled character. The images of Paris and the artfully chosen musical score make this one of Hou's must-see entries.

Synopsis: Kenneth Chan