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11-26-2012, 04:42 PM
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The Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou: Suzanne (Juliette Binoche), a single parent, hires Song, a Chinese immigrant and former film student who now lives in Paris, to look after Simon, her photogenic young son. The movie isn't about much of anything at all except the mundane day-to-day activities that complicate Suzanne's life: a tenancy disagreement; getting a piano tuned; making pancakes, looking after her son, and so on. This is the sort of "slow" cinema that will test any viewer's patience. I confess the first time that I saw it, it bored me. However, seeing it again today, I found it fascinating, a really lovely, graceful film about the challenge that it sometimes is to just get through the day in good humour. What changed for me? I don't know. I just got into the film's unhurried rhythm and stayed there. As I have mentioned before, when "slow" cinema works, it can take on the quality of a really good novel or short story. And that is exactly what this character study did this time around. Also, Binoche was terrific, maybe her best performance. Suzanne does the voices for a puppet theatre, and the scenes relating to her work were enthralling. But her life is as unkempt as her bleached blond hair, exactly the way many people's lives are messy. As she tells Simon, "grown ups lives can be compllicated." Binoche effortlessly brought depth and complexity to her character. Obviously she had great report with her director, no other way does a performance like this come about. This is Taiwan's Hsiao-Hsien Hou's first film abroad, and it only enhances his already formidable reputation as a master of cinema.

The movie is also an odd little homage to The Red Balloon (1956), a short film about a boy and a balloon that seems to follow him around. The homage is only really prominent at the beginning and the end of the film--little bookends of whimsy in a pleasingly familiar world.


Last edited by kihei: 11-28-2012 at 12:59 AM.
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