Tuesday, December 16, 2008

FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2007, France) Suzanne lurks in the penumbra of her son’s life as he chases hope, beautiful and empty, and wishes to float away on Earth’s warm breath. Juliette Binoche portrays Suzanne, a single mother whose turbulent relationships create a choking existential dread not understood by her young son but who nonetheless is profoundly affected. Suzanne is a writer/narrator of a puppet troupe where she controls the tiny lives depicted on stage, but seems helpless in her own. We experience this emotional friction from outside the family unit: Song is a Chinese student filmmaker/nanny who is hired to watch over Simon. Her calm demeanor contrasts Suzanne’s volcanic temper, while Simon seems complacent and aloof, his imagination reliving lucid moments with his sister, whom he misses very much. And hovering about Paris is a red balloon; an allegorical lifeline for a boy who seems to exists in his own quiet desperation, and homage to Albert Lamorisse’s classic film. Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien creates a subtly mysterious film as he explores their emotional depths through long static takes, allowing the characters to imbue the scene with energy or silent contemplation. Though lacking a formal structure, the film is pieced together as moments of time, utilizing flashbacks and beautiful cinematic language to create a satisfying whole. Hsiao-Hsien lets the camera become the audience, forgoing quick editing which brings us into their tiny apartment or on the busy Paris streets. His use of foreground sound adds a realistic dimension, an almost home-movie feel to the drama which involves us intimately with the character oriented narrative. As in real-life, there is no simple conclusion to Simon’s malaise as he watches his dreams, obscured through the dirty skylight, disappear into thin air. (B)

1 comment:

1minutefilmreview said...

Nice review. Juliette Binoche's great in it.