Flight of the Red Balloon

Rated 4.0

Taiwanese director Hsiao-hsien Hou’s ambient homage to Albert Lamorisse’s perennially kid-pleasing 1956 short film, The Red Balloon, creates suspense by making you wonder if anything will happen. Nope. This all but plotless sketch depicts a drowsy-eyed 7-year-old Parisian boy (Simon Iteanu), his harried, elegantly slovenly single mom (Juliette Binoche) and his nanny (Fang Song), an observant Chinese film student. And, of course, the red balloon that seems to watch over them. So unabashedly plaintive and pondering, it’s sure to strike some viewers as an outrageous bore. What connects Flight of the Red Balloon’s scenes and carries them forward isn’t a ready-made package of narrative intentions, but a loose assembly of emotional and aesthetic ones—as studiously orchestrated by Hou’s direction and gathered by Pin Bing Lee’s extraordinary camerawork. The movie is marvelously alert to whatever wonderment may appear within it. Which, for a patient, sympathetic audience, is much.