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Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge (The Flight of the Red Balloon) (2007)

tomatometer

80

Average Rating: 6.9/10
Reviews Counted: 87
Fresh: 70 | Rotten: 17

Hou Hsiao-hsien's remake of the 1956 classic is unhurried, contemplative, and visually rapturous.

90

Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 30
Fresh: 27 | Rotten: 3

Hou Hsiao-hsien's remake of the 1956 classic is unhurried, contemplative, and visually rapturous.

audience

59

liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 3,309

My Rating

Movie Info

Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge (Flight of the Red Balloon), which constitutes celebrated Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's first French-language picture, represents both an homage to Albert Lamorisse's beloved 1956 short The Red Balloon and an expansion of that earlier picture. Hou begins with Lamorisse's central conceit -- that of a mysterious red balloon tracking a lonely young French boy around the city -- and broadens the story to weave an extended meditation on urban isolation and

Aug 1, 2008

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All Critics (89) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (70) | Rotten (17) | DVD (7)

Binoche's energy, invention and concentration are phenomenal.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Lamorisse's film was a third of this length, and was lighter than air. Hou's is about the weight of air itself on a muggy day, and whether that sustains over 113 minutes will be between each viewer and his attention span.

June 23, 2008 Full Review Source: Film.com | Comment (1)
Film.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The story of these people is certainly engaging. The conundrums of art and reality, of reflection and mirror images, presented by the movie are another matter - they seem at times gratuitous. But at least the movie does give us something to think about.

May 16, 2008 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For all its fuss and fury, Flight of the Red Balloon succeeds magnificently, providing not only an artful homage to Lamorisse's Academy Award-winning short, but also a weightlessly floating tour of the French capital.

May 16, 2008 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

More often than not, the red balloon appears as a silent, benevolent witness to ethereal moments that [director] Hou has taken great care to capture.

May 2, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Plenty of well-meaning filmmakers advertise emotion without contextualizing it. Hou's latest film feels to me like a masterpiece responding intuitively to a masterpiece.

April 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Hou's slice of backstreet Paris is quiet, composed, almost serene in spite of itself.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

Watching this was a waste of time.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope | Comment (1)
Laramie Movie Scope

A visitor's beatific evocation

August 26, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion
CinePassion

La Tour de Paris charmingly through the fresh eyes of a Chinese film student updating Lamorisse's beloved film while she babysits the son of the lovely, harried Binoche.

December 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Film-Forward.com
Film-Forward.com

While Hou's cinematic techniques are as sound as ever, this time it feels as if they're being used to peer into nothing of particular, specific significance.

November 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Window to the Movies
Window to the Movies

As if playing a serenely refined game, Hou transforms constraint into freedom -- which feels more to the point than any plotbound interpretation.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: The Nation
The Nation

[A] sedate, ever-lovely looking film.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Beautifully shot, but ultimately dull and plot-free drama that's both elusive and frustrating, despite a strong performance from Binoche.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: ViewLondon
ViewLondon

The question is whether it really makes sense to turn Lamorisse's fanciful original film into a downer family drama; it's sort of like doing a modern-day version of "Narnia" where the kids never find the wardrobe.

September 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

The movie is marvelously alert to whatever wonderment may appear within it. Which, for a patient, sympathetic audience, is much.

August 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

A winsome homage to Albert Lamorisse's classic children's fantasy short film of 1956 The Red Balloon.

August 2, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

There's no editing within a scene, no close-ups. No incidental music. Just life, or a pretty accurate simulation of life.

July 11, 2008
Kansas City Star

The slow-moving Red Balloon really doesn't stack up favorably with its obvious inspiration, the delightful 1956 short fantasy The Red Balloon.

June 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

In a film that feels so unstructured, these scenes reveal how much craft and structure actually go into Hou's films, how he endows his film with such meticulous layering of themes and ideas.

June 8, 2008 Full Review Source: KPBS.org
KPBS.org

Delicately handled and handsomely made.

June 7, 2008 Full Review Source: At the Movies (Australia)
At the Movies (Australia)

Even when [Hou is] working with simple ingredients, he brings along his masterful sense of space, timing, and everyday observation, which gives an actress like Binoche ample room to shine.

June 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Paste Magazine
Paste Magazine

I fear many viewers may lose patience. But those who stay to the end of this delicate and beautiful film will be amply rewarded.

May 30, 2008 Full Review Source: The Australian
The Australian

It's all humdrum and low key without any redeeming compositional elegance or symmetry.

May 29, 2008 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

Audience Reviews for Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge (The Flight of the Red Balloon)

Visually strong and stunning and with a naturalistic plot, "The Flight of the Red Balloon" follows the characters and Paris´s day-by-day life. Nothing different or huge happens... that´s life just as it is.
Like in "Three Times" (unfourtanely I´m just beginning to know Hsiao-hsien Hou´s work), we see a poetically filmed slice of common life.

Albert Lamorisse ´s "The Red Balloon" is brought into the movie by the film student baby-sitter Song who films a short film about red balloons. I´m pretty sure that the first scenes where we see Simon talking to the balloon and later, alone in the metro, hiding himself from it are part of Song´s film. In "The Red Balloon" Pascal takes the bus and goes alone to school, but here we clear see that Simon never stays by himself. Also, Simon is a boy of "modern times" who likes video game and stuffs alike. When he is with the other school kids at the Musee d'Orsay (to look at the Félix Vallotton's painting "Le Ballon") and suddenly turns his head up and see the red balloon seems to be the first time he really sees the balloon (and not a "fake" one of Song´s film).

I don´t know if the boy who plays Simon is a real actor, but he talks and acts so naturally that I tend to think he is not. Speaking about acting, Juliette Binoche is simply great. With a not usual character type to her, Binoche plays Suzanne (kinda mix of her previous characters in "Jet Lag" and "Code Unkown") amazingly joyful.

May 11, 2012
5oclockcoffee

Super Reviewer

[font=Garamond][size=3]I was astonished by how boring [b]Hou Hsiao-Hsien[/b]'s "Flight of the Red Balloon" was. It was, as the French would say, [i]insupportable[/i] (intolerable).[/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3][img]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/d/dd/FlightOfTheRedBalloon.jpg/200px-FlightOfTheRedBalloon.jpg[/img][/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3]This is the second film this year from an Asian auteur (supposed auteur) exploring foreign cultures. First we had Wong Kar-Wai's "My Blueberry Nights," which was in English, explored American culture, and had a largely American cast. Now we have Mr. Hou exploring French culture and assembling a cast led by the great French actress, [b]Juliette Binoche.[/b] Both films are insufferably boring and colossally superficial.[/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3]Ang Lee ("The Ice Storm" and "Brokeback Mountain") is the only Asian auteur so far capable of venturing out of Asia and producing non-Asian films with penetrating insight into the foreign cultures they explore and into the humanity that unites us. I applaud Wong Kar-Wai and Hou Hsaio-Hsien for trying to follow in Ang Lee's footsteps. But they have failed miserably. I would say that Hou fails even more than Wong. At least Mr. Wong brought some extraordinary cinematography to the table. Mr. Hou doesn't even bring that.[/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3]There is one positive thing I could say about Hou's film: it has a remarkably accurate sense of the rhythms and texture of daily Parisian life. The problem is that he imagined a Parisian family of the most ordinary sort. Yes, it's true that Hou learned what a Parisian family looks like when it's cooking dinner. Is it interesting to watch an ordinary Parisian family cook dinner? For about 10 minutes it is. After that we need something signiificant to occur to constitute a film. Hou is satisfied just to film the family cooking dinner and cleaning house. It is mind-numbingly boring.[/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3]The film presumably is a homage to the sublime 1950s French short by Albert Lamorisse, which is perhaps the most beloved short in cinema history. But in Hou's film, the balloon almost never appears. It never has any significant role in the plot. The first couple of scenes show the balloon floating around Paris, seeming to follow a young boy played by [b]Simon Iteanu[/b]. But then we hunker down with the boy's Parisian family, which is led by Binoche's character, and we almost never see the balloon again. We just learn about the boy's (insipid) family.[/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3]Binoche plays a divorced mother raising her son alone. The boy's father is living in Montreal. A new nanny has just been hired. She is a Chinese film student who improbably speaks fluent French. This character is an obvious doppelganger for Hou himself. She even films the boy and grows somewhat fascinated by the idea of a red balloon. She even mentions the 1950s short to which the film is presumably paying homage. [/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3]I liked this self-referentiality, and much could have been done with it. Instead all Hou does is have this languid, dull Chinese woman walk around with a videocamera. She never says anything interesting about cinema. We don't get the slightest sense of what her life is like or what she really cares about. No one in this film seems really to care about anything, and their emptiness is not interesting to watch. It says nothing compelling about empty people.[/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3]Binoche's character is to some degree entertaining. She is a bleached blonde who creates children's puppet shows and does have charisma. But all she ever talks about is trying to get a (boring) tenant to move out of the apartment downtairs.[/size][/font]

[font=Garamond][size=3]The script gives Binoche's character only mundane tasks to accomplish. I would have loved for a more interesting screenwriter to get his or her hands on this character and create something. [/size][/font][font=Garamond][size=3]Superficiality is the name of the game here, and this film gives new meaning to the word soporific.[/size][/font]
May 4, 2008
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

"Brevity is the soul of wit."
Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

In "The Flight of the Red Balloon," Suzanne(Juliette Binoche) is a puppeteer and divorced mother of two, living in Paris with her son Simon(Simon Iteanu) while her daughter Louise(Louise Margolin) lives in Brussels with her father. Due to the hectic nature of her work, Suzanne has just hired a new nanny, Song(Song Fang), who is an amateur filmmaker from Beijing. She reminds Suzanne of herself at a younger age when she worked as an au pair in London. That leaves Suzanne plenty of time to work on her passive-aggressive relationship with a tenant(Hippolyte Girardot).

Outside of an episodic structure that shows off Paris to its best advantage, director Hou Hsiao-hsien does little else of interest with "The Flight of the Red Balloon", missing a valuable opportunity to comment on a meeting between eastern and western cultures with the arrival of a puppetmaster from China.(He does love his trains, though.) Sadly, there is also a bit of a running homage to the classic short film "The Red Balloon" which is a large mistake because you are never going to compare favorably to such a great movie, especially one that accomplished so much in so brief a running time.
March 7, 2010
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Ha ha! Hsaiao Hsien Hou does French...and he does it with the skill of the finest in French cinema. Juliette Binoche is fabulous...is she ever not?
April 14, 2009
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • The Flight of the Red Balloon (Le Voyage du ballon rouge) (DE)
  • Flight Of The Red Balloon (UK)
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