The Flight of the Red Balloon

Hou Hsiao-hsien abandons his usual Taiwanese settings for a modern-day look at the City of Light in this lovely, ephemeral, and at times experimental update of the classic 1959 French children's short The Red Balloon. Trading in the sweeping historical epics and flashy costume dramas of prior festival hits like Flowers of Shanghai or The Puppetmaster, Hou instead continues the obsessions of his more recent Café Lumiere, tracking the rhythms of life-and the rhythms of light-in the contemporary world to beautiful, dazzling effect. Juliette Binoche is Suzanne, a harried single mom whose job leaves little time for her son, Simon. The arrival of Taiwanese film student Song as a nanny helps ease the stress, especially after Suzanne's noisy neighbors and absent ex-husband begin to make increasingly difficult demands. At times the film is as entranced by the reflection of light-off buses, through windows, from skylights-as it is by its Ozu-esque “central” topic, the everyday life of the modern family.

Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon screens on March 8 in the PFA series Movie Matinees for All Ages.

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