"Flight of the Red Balloon"--Film Review
Set in Paris (with English subtitles), we find a beautiful, single (or perhaps her husband has been away for a long time; I couldn't tell), distraught mother, Suzanne, hiring a young Taiwanese nanny, Song, to look after her five-year-old son, Simon. She passionately reads lines for a Chinese puppet theater. At several points a red balloon mysteriously appears near the characters, especially the boy. There is no discernible plot: no tension, no release, no mystery, and ...I'm afraid to say, no meaning.
The serenity of the balloon and of Song offset the disorder of the mother and the other characters. I got the sense of looking in on some people's mostly pedestrian lives. Near the end, a blind piano tuner appears and tunes a piano in the family's flat while other things are going on. Why, what for? I have no idea. Looking hard for meaning, I found none--except, perhaps, in the contrast between the simplicity and eerie serenity of the balloon and the lives of most of the characters. Does the balloon symbolize anything? Could it be a sign or signal of transcendence? If so, we are not told. We are left without any cognitive sense of meaning in or for life.
Any meaning or aesthetic qualities is left to the cinematography, since there is barely any dialogue. The mother (Juliet Binoche) plays her part well (at least what there is of it), but she does not appear all that often in the film.
Why have so many critics been entranced by this film? Perhaps because their expectations for meaning in life are so low, given their secularism (f they are such). Scenes of Paris, a mysterious red balloon, a precious child, and a gorgeous actress may be enough to alleviate their angst for two hours. But that is little comfort, indeed. Then again, I am not a film critic, so maybe I just missed far too much, as this writer (writing for Christianity Today) claims.
Labels: Film Review