Two tributes this week to what most of us Reverse Shotters consider the best film of 2008 so far (if not, ultimately, then we’ll be some seriously lucky moviegoers). Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Flight of the Red Balloon opens this Friday, in New York, at the IFC Center. Trust us, there’s really nothing else you should be doing this weekend. And trust no one who dislikes it.
First, Chris Wisniewski at indieWIRE:
“Like his 2004 film Cafe Lumière, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s sublime new movie The Flight of the Red Balloon finds the director in a foreign country paying homage to another filmmaker. With Lumière, Yasujiro Ozu was Hou’s reference point and Tokyo his canvas; here, Hou reimagines Albert Lamorisse’s classic 1956 short The Red Balloon as a Parisian family melodrama. Hou’s film, much like Lamorisse’s, opens with the magnificent titular object hovering barely out of the reach of seven-year-old Simon (Simon Iteanu); as he gets on the Metro, it floats just above the station, drifting up into the trees. The balloon, and by proxy Lamorisse’s film, serves as our point of departure—our way into Simon’s world and our guide through the streets of Paris—but the delicate, charming, quietly heartbreaking portrait of childhood and family that follows is distinctively and unforgettably Hou. Read the rest . . .
Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot:
A remarkably rich, rewarding, and restful experience, Hou’s latest is a film like no other—in the simplicity of its lines, colors, and framing, and in the complexity of how those elements compound and contextualize its emotional subject matter, The Flight of the Red Balloon can, in my mind, be compared to the works of Matisse. Despite this elevation, the film, miraculously, doesn’t feel like an artist’s grand summation, but rather just another in a long line of purely wrought canvases; it never calls attention to its own technique or turns its endless flow of lovely, complicated compositions into recognizable set pieces, and instead allows its three principal characters to navigate its spaces with ease. The very elements that many feared might have tripped Hou Hsaio-hsien up (being out of his country and native language) here become strengths: a trust in his actors to inhabit their own, distinct daily lives without strict authorial pressure, and a view of Paris that’s just outsider-ish enough to be slightly awed but aestheticized enough to not become travelogue. Also, Hou’s feelings for the original Lamorisse film feel more like the warm regards of a distant admirer than the impassioned homage to a hallowed national treasure. Read the rest . . .