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(aka 'The Red Balloon')

Directed by Albert Lamorisse
France 1956

 

Synopsis
Most of French director Albert Lamorisse's films celebrate the miracle of flight, but few were as a landmark as his 1956 short subject The Red Balloon. The story, told with a minimum of dialogue, concerns a little boy (played by the director's son Pascal) who comes across a helium-filled balloon. As he plays with his new acquisition, the boy discovers that the balloon seemingly has a mind of its own. The little red orb follows its new 'master' all through the streets of Paris, and then dogs the boy's trail into the schoolroom, which drives the teacher to comic distraction. Towards the end, it seems as though boy and balloon will be parted forever....but director Lamorisse has a delightful surprise in store for us.

***

This is a wonderfully observed short film, almost entirely without dialogue, by French director Lamorisse about a boy who finds a red balloon. The balloon seems to become his best friend and follows him around the streets of Paris, helping him to cope with adults and bullies alike. The reader can read many different meanings into the boy's balloon, and it is much to the director's credit that we treat its (thankfully temporary) loss as a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The tragic ending haunts many an impressionable child well into adulthood. Lamorisse has a unique talent for crawling under the skins of little people, which he also demonstrates in his short White Mane. He won an Oscar for The Red Balloon, but his eventual foray into film making took him out of his depth. In the end he found his true forte in directing documentaries.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

The Red Balloon’ follows a small boy and his big red balloon, around his hometown. Winner of numerous awards in its day, including the Grand Prize at Cannes, it now serves as a fascinating look at life in a different era – fondly called ‘the old days’ by my kids. ‘Why is he going to school on his own? Mum, he’s stealing that balloon! He ran across the road without looking! Etc…’The classic short film has no dialogue – hurrah – and with music as a mood setter it is as enjoyable for adults who wistfully view scenes of post-war France in all its black and white chicness, as it is for kids.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Promotional

Theatrical Release: October 15th, 1956

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Comparison:

Janus Films / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Network - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Janus Films / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Network - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Janus Films / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC Network - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 34:26  0:34:17.125
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.14 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P / 24 fps Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 20,458,010,036 bytes

Feature: 5,858,562,048 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate:

Blu-ray

Audio French (Dolby Digital mono)  LPCM Audio French 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Subtitles English, None English (non-removable)
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Janus Films / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Trailer (1:24)

• 8-page liner notes

DVD Release Date: April 29th, 200
8
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 10

Release Information:
Studio: Network (UK)

1080P / 24 fps Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 20,458,010,036 bytes

Feature: 5,858,562,048 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Mon Pere Etait un Balloon Rouge (My Father Was A Red Balloon) - Albert Lamorisse Featurette (51:59)

• L'Enfant Qui Ne Sourait Pas - portrait of Alain Emery (43:13)

• The White Mane in HD (SEE COMPARISON HERE)

Blu-ray Release Date: January 18th, 2010
Standard (UK)
Blu-ray Case
Chapters:
6

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

NOTE: Our software has never rendered weak 480 resolution reds very well as noted by the Criterion balloon grabs below but BOTH sets of captures were produced on the identical system.

ADDITION: Network - Region FREE Blu-ray January 2010': Where the Criterion edition looked very green, this new Blu-ray looks more bluish. The short story is it looks quite wonderful with prevalent textured grain and colors, like the balloon, are dramatic improvements. The Red Balloon looks just super in 1080P. Two negatives, depending on your stance: the Criterion has more information the frame on all 4 edges and the, sparingly used, English subtitles are non-removable on the Blu-ray.

The linear PCM audio is pretty clean but not an overwhelming part of the presentation. the music sounds more resounding.

Paul sent us this email: "...a note about the Criterion 'The Red Balloon' - I just picked up the SD-DVD of it, .... 'white mane' is also on the disc. In regards to the audio of Red Balloon it looks to me that Criterion has messed up. Go to the big scene where the balloon deflates.... at the start of that scene you can just hear the beginning of the balloon deflating ........ I'm talking about the SOUND fx of the balloon sadly hissing out it's air..... whatever software they are using to de-noise / de-hiss the audio track ...... has unwittingly removed probably the most important dramatic sound in the film.... one wonders if the person doing the audio cleanup actually MONITORS or double checks the film when it's done. This is a big mistake. The sound on Exterminating Angel suffers from the same kind of over obliteration of the actual soundtrack due to heavy use of the de-noising procedure...." (Paul is a sound editor by profession - thanks Paul!)

A big plus is that it also has Lamorisse's The White Mane in HD - albeit with some issues (SEE COMPARISON HERE) and two excellent French documentaries (with English subtitles) - On Albert Lamorisse's life story is Mon Pere Etait un Balloon Rouge (My Father Was a Red Balloon) running over 50-minutes and L'Enfant Qui Ne Sourait Pas - is a 45-minute portrait of Alain Emery. Both are in SD.

NOTE: While the Blu-ray is technically region FREE - the documentaries are in PAL and North American players may not play the extras although so far two people with region 'A' players have told us that they do indeed play on North American machines (thanks Bruce and John).

I think the price makes this well worth the investment despite some negatives. We give a resounding recommendation to see this masterpiece in an un-picture-boxed, high-definition transfer. Such a beautiful film deserves a place in every collection.

***

ON THE DVD: NOTE: This Criterion transfer is again pictureboxed (see our description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). Criterion have included a thick black border around the edge of the frame to counter overscan on production-made television sets.

Advertised as 'released by Janus Films, in association with the Criterion Collection' this single-layered, progressive DVD bears the professionalism of the latter organization. The 1:33 ratio film is clean and bright with minimal noise. The glossiness and redness of the balloon can seem fairly brilliant at times but this is not enhanced, but rather intended as per my recollection. This short runs 34 minutes and remains a delight.  

Released simultaneously on April 29th (along with The Red Balloon) are Paddle to the Sea (Bill Mason, 1966) and White Mane (Albert Lamorisse, 1953).

There is a trailer and some liner notes with an essay by Michael Koresky. Wonderful to have on digital now and a true pleasure to show my children. All yours for less than $10. Wow! 

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Distribution Janus Films / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC Network - Region FREE - Blu-ray




 

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