Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Red Balloon

(Le ballon rouge, France, 1956)

I hate the phrase “instant classic,” but if there ever was such a thing, this little 35-minute film is it. Right from the very first, everyone with any sense could see that this was one for the ages, a film that would appeal just as much in 2019 (and probably 2119, if we live that long) as it did in 1956. It was the only short film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, even though the story itself is so simple that it can be summed up in one sentence: A red balloon follows a young boy around Paris.

Of course it has been analyzed to death, and all sorts of symbolic signs have been perceived by those who enjoy stuff like that. And it’s not all bullshit. At the end a lot of bullies who have been chasing the boy around corner him and deflate the balloon with a slingshot. For some reason the urge to destroy beautiful things seems deeply rooted in the human psyche. I don’t understand it. Does anybody? The happy ending, where balloons from over town converge on the boy and lift him into the sky, has been characterized as a Christian allegory by some. Jesus save us from the allegorists. Screw that. I just sit back and enjoy it. It’s 35 minutes that will make you feel good, or something is wrong with you.