Short Takes (IV): "The Red Balloon"
The ending of Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon (1956; 34 minutes)--in which a flock of balloons comes to the rescue of little Pascal, carrying him away over the Paris skyline--is joyous, exultant, because of its simplicity. There is no explanation for it. The film, made for children, operates according to kids' logic. Theorizing it ("the balloons are a metaphor for Pascal's longing to escape bourgeois repression...", etc.) becomes self-defeating. The genius of The Red Balloon lies in its transparency, its blithe straight-forwardness (for a more sinuous take on this material, see Hao Hsiao-Hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon ). Just as a balloon signifies nothing more than an appealing form, something that is pleasurable simply because it is brightly colored and perfectly shaped, the film's ending means nothing more than a child's desire to be engulfed by dozens of shapes and colors, to be caught up in them, and to fly.