Seeing that I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this weekend I thought I’d crack into my epic pile of unwatched DVDs and ended up watching a couple of short French children’s films from the 50s. Beautifully shot, at times whimsical and moving they were exactly what I needed this morning.
Fittingly, seeing that the Cannes film festival winners are announced this evening, both films won prizes – White Mane winning the Grand Prix in 1953 and The Red Balloon winning the Palm D’or in 1956) at Cannes when they were released. The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge) is probably the best known of the two, it was certainly the one I bought the DVD for – various contributors to a Radio 4 Film Programme special on children’s cinema having waxed lyrical about it – featuring as it does the adventures and friendship of a boy and a balloon with a mind of it’s own as they travel the streets of Paris. Colour is used to considerable impact in the film and I’d love to know how they animated the balloon because it truly becomes a mischievous character in its own right. For a film with as little dialogue as this contains it’s a remarkably emotionally engaging film. I can see why so many people who saw it as children find it so memorable. White Mane (Crin-Blanc) on the other hand has more structured narrative mainly due to having a narrator and is visually stunning for very different reasons. It concerns the friendship that develops between a young boy and a wild horse and the shots of the wild horse herd are often quite extraordinary (director Albert Lamorisse’s experience and skill as a photographer show through into some impressive cinematography) though a little disturbing sometimes.
Essentially both films are about unusual friendships, trust and escape, and given that they’re respectively 30 and 40 mins long I’d recommend them thoroughly for anyone looking for a whimsical and bittersweet pleasure.