The Red Balloon/Le Ballon Rouge (Fr 1956)

Director: Albert Lamorisse

Starring: Pascal Lamorisse (as 'Pascal the Boy'); Georges Sellier (as The Shopkeeper); Rene Marion (Pascal's dad); Sabine Lamorisse (Pascal's mum)

Screenplay/Story: Albert Lamorisse

Music: Maurice le Roux

Cinematography: Edmond Sechan

Sound: Pierre Vuilleman

In one line: A Parisian boy befriends a red balloon.

Summary (Warning - spoiler alert!)

On his way to school one morning, Pascal finds a large shiny red balloon. The balloon seems to have a life on its own. It follows Pascal and the two play together as friends. The balloon floats by Pascal's bedroom after being banned from the house by Pascal's mother. The balloon follows Pascal to school and causes mayhem resulting in Pascal being put on detention. Pascal's balloon attracts envy and admiration from the people of Paris. Pascal and the balloon encounter a group of bullies who chase them to a top of a hill.  The bullies destroy the red balloon.

Hundreds of other balloons come to Pascal's aid and take him on a floating sky-bound tour of Paris.


Not only the most Eddie Waring-inflected French-sounding title so far (with great memories of Waring's Le Fil Rouge), but the shortest film on (if you leave out the Laurel and Hardys) at just 34 minutes long.

I know that some would baulk at the word 'charming', but it's hard to escape this description of this lovely (probably even worse) little film. A big favourite of my dad's (God bless), it was The Red Balloon that introduced me to the delights and dark side of French cinema all those years ago.

Being seven years old, I was absolutely devastated by The Red Balloon's 'death scene',  and I certainly wasn't appeased by the apparent feel-good ending of the balloon cluster who save Pascal and take him to a metaphorical better place at the end of the film.

Not only was The Red Balloon an introduction to French film and the devastation of death, it was also a harsh lesson in the wanton cruelties of other human beings. Those vicious little bastards who kill The Red Balloon are never punished and never was the unfairness of life so vividly illustrated.

I love a good obvious piece of Jesus symbolism (see The Odds Against Tomorrow, The Brave Little Toaster, The Omega Man,The Bofors Gun etc) but this was too much. 'Balloon' is killed on its own little, lonely Calvary and saves Pascal both literally and metaphorically by rising from the dead (as a bunch of other balloons) and helping him to ascend to heaven. this is no good when you're seven.

I would have preferred Balloon to have lived - I had a lifetime of grief to cope with without such an early introduction.

I've got to let it go....

A great little film - if you're not easily traumatised.

By dead balloons.