The Red Balloon

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When you are a little boy like I was when I saw The Red Balloon (1956) for the first time it has an indescribable effect on you. Sure a film like Davy Crockett can instill a child with some moral values just as The Crimson Pirate can ignite one’s sense of adventure, but The Red Balloon poses a question that only a child might ask. “What makes make-believe make-believe?”

Lamorisse is not interested in an answer. The Red Balloon simply asks its audience to accept, to feel without thinking. It isn’t one of those obnoxious children’s films that pretends to do that with talking animals or a superficial visual perfection. The streets in The Red Balloon are real streets. The faces of the people on those streets are just like anywhere in the world. The only fantastic element to the film is the balloon. It is in this contrast that the film finds its success.

It’s difficult for me to discuss the aesthetic virtues of The Red Balloon. It’s a film that is just too close to me. When I turned twenty-five a few years ago and my mother gave me the Janus Films restoration of The Red Balloon on DVD I’m sure she didn’t think I was grateful. I just don’t have the words to really talk about this film. Of all of the films on this list, this one has been the most important to me.