I recently viewed this charming movie, having remembered the catchy title from a much earlier decade. “The Red Balloon” was written, produced, and directed by Albert Lamorisse, who cast both his son Pascal and his daughter Sabine in this unforgettable story. The film is entitled “Le Ballon Rouge” in France.
Set in Paris in the 1950’s, “The Red Balloon” tells a story, not with words which are not in evidence in the film, but through action and music which are enough to stir the interest of the viewer.
The Red Balloon - Wikimedia
When Pascal, a nine-year-old boy, was on his way to school one day, he spied a red balloon sitting at the top of a lamppost. He climbed the pole to retrieve his newly found toy, and was able to get back down from the pole safely. He picked up his book bag, and continued on walking to school. Everyone he passed looked curiously at the novelty. He attempted to get on a bus, but the driver would not allow him on while holding the huge red treasure. Pascal ran all the way to school, grasping his balloon tightly. He asked a street sweeper if he would hold it while he was in school. The street sweeper said no.
Pascal Gets Detention
The school children, waiting outside for the doors to open, made much of the trinket, and caused a loud stir. The Principal became angry and locked Pascal in a detention room until the school day was over. At the end of the school day, when Pascal was allowed to leave, his new friend was hanging in mid-air outside of school, as though waiting for him. The Principal tried to get hold of the plaything, but it always flew out of his reach. Pascal grabbed his balloon and crossed the street.
Paris, France - Wikimedia
Pascal Protects His Balloon From the Rain
It was raining out, so Pascal asked a man if his prized possession could get under the man’s umbrella. He didn’t care about himself getting wet. When the man took a different direction from his, he then asked a woman to protect his little blimp under her umbrella; then a nun took the same responsibility, as well as another man.
When Pascal reached his apartment, he brought the device inside. His mother opened the window and released it. Instead of floating away into the sky, the rubber toy hovered outside the balcony and waited there in mid-air for its new friend.
Pascal is Inseparable from His New Balloon
Down on the street, Pascal told the plaything to come down and it obeyed him. It was just out of his reach, but it followed him as he walked down the street. Each time he tried to grab it, the balloon slipped out of his reach again. A dog ran after the balloon, barking. Pascal turned a corner and hid from his trinket for a few seconds, but it kept following him and he was able to grab it. He let go of it and it floated into a doorway. It came back out of the doorway, and Pascal grabbed it. He tried to get on a bus again and the blimp flew out of his hand. The object followed the bus down several streets.
The Blue Balloon - Wikimedia
A Little Girl with a Blue Balloon
Pascal got off the bus where a street sale was in progress. There were pictures, furniture and art work for sale. His toy floated around, in and out of all the objects. Pascal lost sight of it for a few minutes, but found it again. As he walked home, he saw that it was following behind him. He came upon a little girl (Sabine Lamorisse) who had a blue balloon. The red toy started to follow the blue one. The little girl let go of her balloon and it followed Pascal's toy. Pascal grabbed the little girl's balloon and returned it to her.
Adventures with the Balloon
Three little hoodlum kids ran after Pascal. Other boys came too, trying to grab the device, but they could not catch it. Pascal was near his house and he let go of the balloon and rose up to the balcony of the apartment, where he was able to retrieve it.
Pascal and his grandmother walked to church, with Pascal clutching his balloon. He left the balloon hanging in mid-air outside the church, but the balloon somehow made its way into the church and caused an uproar. The priest sent both Pascal and his grandmother out of church with the balloon.
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France - Wikimedia
Some Bullies Try to Harm the Balloon
Pascal stopped at a baked goods store to buy a pastry. While he was inside the store, a group of boys grabbed the balloon and ran away with it. He could not find his precious toy. The bullies were envious of Pascal’s possession and wanted it for themselves. Pascal spied the balloon from a distance and ran towards it. The boys were throwing stones at it and using slingshots on it. It was out of Pascal’s reach, but he was able to grab it. However, the boys were on the other side of the wall, holding it with a rope. He managed to loosen the rope from them and ran away. The boys chased after him, but he was too fast. He ran a long distance, and changed directions, but they still ran after him through a narrow alley. Pascal made his way up a hill and another group of boys started following him. The balloon stayed out of everyone’s reach. One boy hit the toy with a slingshot and it started to deflate slowly. Another boy came along and stomped on it.
The Sky is Full of Balloons
All of a sudden, there were about fifty small blimps in the air, all over town, all of different colors. Pascal was sitting near his deflated balloon, mourning its passing, and he looked up and saw all of the balloons. He grabbed several of them. He retrieved so many of them that they flew away with him and carried him across town. That was the end of the story.
The Sky is Full of Balloons - Wikimedia
Accolades for the Film
“The Red Balloon” is one of the most beloved children’s films of all time. The producer, Albert Lamorisse also authored a picture-book version of the movie, which contains many stills from the film. It has been distributed to elementary schools across the United States, and has been viewed by countless school children who are always fascinated by the tale.
Albert Lamorisse won an Academy Award in 1956 for Best Original Screenplay. The Cannes Film Festival awarded “The Red Balloon” the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) for short films. The film is only thirty-four minutes long.
There is probably a moral to this story. It is best if the viewer determines the moral which applies to his own life. There are so many innuendoes to consider. As adults, we should be able to see beyond the obvious, and grasp the true meaning of the story.