Total Film - 04/01/2008 4 stars out of 5 -- "Hsiao-Hsien has such a calm, compassionate eye that even the everyday goings-on in Binoche's boho apartment...feel touched by magic."
Film Comment - 03/01/2008
"[Hou's] gamble more than pays off, the substance of this deceptively light and pleasingly pretty film lingering long after the red balloon bloats away."
Empire - 04/01/2008 3 stars out of 5 -- "Hou's exquisitely crafted scenes of domestic chaos and Paris' unforgiving streets provide the perfect backdrop for his meditation on art's ability to add both strain and beauty to people's daily lives.'
Sight and Sound - 04/01/2008
"Binoche jolts her scenes awake....The film's sketchy, improvised dialogue springs to life in her hands....Her frazzled, human performance is the film's keystone..."
New York Times - 04/04/2008
"Mr. Hou's films can be crushingly sad; as with Bresson and Ozu, his restraint only deepens the emotional power of his work..."
Entertainment Weekly - 04/11/2008
"[With] floating notions about loneliness and urban beauty, frazzled adults and buffeted kids....Juliette Binoche is outstanding..."
Los Angeles Times - 04/18/2008
"[A] great example of the director's even-hand and assured command of the medium....Ultimately, THE FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON feels so naturalistic and true to life that it can only be both."
Premiere - 03/31/2008 4 stars out of 5 -- "Part of Hou's genius is imbuing this material with emotion that is genuine and tender but never sentimental. This is a slice of life that implies so much more than what's on its surface."
Total Film - 11/01/2008 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he director conjures an artful combination of the mundane and the poetic that suggest magic can be found just about anywhere."
In 1956, Albert Lamorisse made THE RED BALLOON, a short in which a young boy, played by his son, makes friends with a red balloon. Some 50 years later, Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao Hsien has made his first French-language film, the charming and subtle FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON, commissioned by the Musée d'Orsay and inspired by Lamorisse's children's classic. A blonde Juliette Binoche stars as Suzanne, a single mother living in Paris, doing her best to raise her seven-year-old son, Simon (Simon Iteanu), while preparing her latest puppet show, based on the Yuan Dynasty story of Zhang Yu and his beloved, Qiong Lian. Suzanne hires Song (Song Fang), a Taiwanese film student, to come to Paris to take care of Simon. Song goes everywhere with her camera, filming everything she sees. Meanwhile, Simon is being followed by a red balloon that has grown attached to the boy. The balloon, which seems to have its own personality, hovers over the boy and his family as Suzanne struggles with her daily life, fighting with tenants who owe back rent, moving a piano, and getting ready for the puppet show. Hou, the director of such widely acclaimed films as THE PUPPETMASTER, FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI, and CAFE LUMIERE, has created a touching, beautiful film in FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON, which opened the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was also selected for that year's New York Film Festival. Not only does the balloon serve as a character unto itself but so does the city of Paris as Song and Simon walk through the streets and ride the train. All the dialogue in the film is improvised, shot in long takes by cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bing; Hou provided each of the actors with the general scenario and back story and then had them fill in the dialogue and movement themselves, adding a natural authenticity to the film.
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