34 minutes: 1956
Director and Writer: Albert Lamorisse
Actors: Albert Lamorisse, Pascal Lamorisse, Georges Sellier
A simple story: a magical balloon befriends a Parisian boy. Follows him everywhere. The boy doesn’t have to hold the balloon it is there for him. Waits for him outside school. Follows behind the bus. Waits for him at his home. The balloon is at his service. Boy and Balloon spend many happy hours together in Paris to the bewilderment of everyone. That is until, tragedy strikes as the boy and his magical balloon are set on by a gang of jealous boys who set out to destroy the balloon. Sadly, they succeed.
The boy is left crying with his burst balloon. But wait. What is this? All the balloons of Paris pull away from where they are and go to comfort the boy who joyfully takes them and is carried off over Paris away to his future. It is utterly beautiful. I was overjoyed and in awe when I saw it, aged 4, in Brighton, UK, at the much missed Continental Cinema, Kemp Town. I have loved the film ever since.
Yet how did they get the balloon to follow the boy? Sadly magic balloons don’t exist (although I stand to be corrected!) and balloons can not be trained. Also what of the last scene where the boy is, apparently, carried away? How was that achieved as it is unlikely that any director would risk his son on such an effect!
For modern, would be, filmmakers making films on a few hundred pounds the answer is disarmingly simple. There was a fishing line attached to the balloon and to a fishing rod behind the camera. Howzthat?! I defy you to see the line in all but one shot and only there because it appears very briefly against a darker background. Sheer genius. Apart from that you just have Paris, a little boy, a magic balloon and a film that has lasted sixty plus years.
The boy carried away? Lamorisse acquired the services of a small stature person, a stuntman in fact used a harness and suspended him underneath it. Magic.
It’s not about how little you have. It’s about how you use the little you do have.
Made on a shoestring budget: Outcome?
Palme D’or Cannes 1956, Medaille D’or Tokyo 1956, Oscar 1956, Prix De L’acadwmie Du Cinema London 1956, Prix De La Critique New York 1957.
See the film any way you can and marvel!