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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Red Balloon is an enchanting short film about a red balloon that befriends a little French boy is more than a joy to watch; it's a provocative exercise in creative interpretation that deserves a place of honor on any Classics shelf. Younger kids will enjoy it purely on a surface level as an engaging story about a boy and his balloon. Older kids will be able to read more into it and offer some mind-blowing insights. There is some tame bullying: A gang of older kids chases a boy around Paris, determined to steal and destroy his balloon.
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What's the story?
THE RED BALLOON is an allegorical story of a boy and his red balloon has only a few background words of dialogue. The parable unfolds in carefully plotted images and beguiling actions that give the balloon more personality than some A-list actors. The balloon ducks into alleys, rises suddenly to escape grabbing hands, and pauses in front of a mirror to admire itself. It's as alive as the boy is.
Here's the story: A young boy (Pascal Lamorisse) untangles a bright red balloon from a lamppost and tries to give it away, but the balloon returns to him. It hovers outside his window. It follows him to school where, dodging playfully out of reach, it escapes the groping hands of the other children and gets the boy in trouble. A gang of older boys chases the boy down, captures the balloon, and takes it to an abandoned place where they torment it with rocks and slingshots. While the boy tries to rescue it, the balloon grows weary-looking, settles to the ground, and is stomped on, signaling a peculiar call to arms.
Is it any good?
In a world where far too much is overemphasized or explained nearly to death, a film such as The Red Balloon is a rare and invigorating pleasure. Winner of an Academy Award in 1956 for Best Original Screenplay, as well as the Cannes Film Festival's Grand Prize and, most impressively, the 1968 Best Film of the Decade Educational Film Award, THE RED BALLOON is a tender and charming film all ages can benefit from seeing and talking about. Ask a dozen children who've seen this film what the balloon represents, and you might get a dozen answers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that, as with White Mane (1952), writer/director Albert Lamorisse's earlier short film, a statement is being made in The Red Balloon about the darker side of human nature. What do your kids think that statement is about? Greed? Racism? Fear of the unknown? Enjoy the freedom of drawing your own conclusions.
How is color used throughout the movie? How is color used in other movies?
This is considered by many to be a "classic" short film. What aspects of this film do you think make it a classic?
- In theaters: March 11, 1957
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 1996
- Cast: Georges Sellier, Pascal Lamorisse, Paul Perey
- Director: Albert Lamorisse
- Studio: Warner Independent
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 34 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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