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Laramie Movie Scope:
Flight of the Red Balloon

An incredibly boring masterpiece

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 2, 2010 -- This 2008 Hsiao-hsien Hou-directed film loosely based on the Academy Award-winning 1956 Albert Lamorisse film (which is directly referenced in the film) has been hailed by some as a masterpiece and has gotten a lot of good reviews. I was expecting something good, at least, when I checked the DVD out of the local library. Instead, watching this was a waste of time. I was extremely disappointed. Give me “The Notebook” any day of the week over this overrated piece of crap.

This is one of those slice-of-life films about ordinary people doing ordinary things over the space of a few days. We see everyday events like people bickering over support payments, bickering over lease payments, bickering over limited kitchen space, bickering over the location of a piano, bickering about how family members never call (if I wanted to watch bickering, I'd watch CSPAN), tuning a piano, practicing for a puppet show, playing video games, walking down the street, and above it all flies a red balloon. The problem is, there is a lack of editing from time to time. It appears the camera is just left on and runs and runs when there is little happening. This is either lazy editing, or some misbegotten notion of arty filmmaking. I found it boring. There are some nice images from time to time, and the acting is superb, especially by veteran actress Juliette Binoche, who plays Suzanne, mother of Simon (Simon Iteanu) a very cute young boy. Binoche, who usually plays serene characters, here plays a frazzled, overextended woman who often seems near the end of her rope.

This is an upper class family, since Suzanne can afford not only a full-time Nanny (Fang Song) and a piano teacher, but she is constantly buying things, traveling and eating out. However, none of the activities of this family, the nanny (who is a student filmmaker, speaking of lazy and obvious storytelling props) or the piano teacher, are out of the ordinary. There is no real drama, no tragedy, no romance. It is the cinematic equivalent of watching somebody rearrange the drapes for two hours, all the while bitching about how they don't like any of the drapes. Then there is the weird puppet show rehearsals directed by Suzanne, who also seems to do all the puppet voices. The puppet voices were like fingernails on a blackboard. The noise of it even upset my cat. This was annoying and painful to watch. How Suzanne makes a living out this kind of ugly puppet show is baffling. Well, you get the idea. This film rates an F.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2010 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)