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June 21, 2008

Boring Movies about Balloons


redballoon.jpg Yen and I went to see Hou Hsiao Hsien's Flight Of The Red Balloon the other day, during its brief North Texas run. Two or three shots into it, I leaned over and whispered "how'd they do that?" in regards to the amazing choreography of that titular dirigible within Hou's long, gracefully mobile shots. Ah, the mechanics of whismy - which through the magic of meta makes whimsy that much more marvelous. I honestly don't care how Hou pulled it off, only that he did - but that he did at all sets my imagination alight all the more. I think it might just be the a series of very sustained happy accidents (some anecdote from David Mamet's Bambi Vs. Godzilla, in which he drove himself nuts trying to deduce the manner in which a filmmaker had managed to get a cat to do something in a very specific way, springs to mind), which, if so, is just as much a testament to Hou's skill - that he can roll with the unexpected with as much grace as the precise arrangements of time and space in which he composes his tableaux.

The film itself is a joy, delineating in blissfully uncertain terms the divisions between art and life, between wonder and routine; is is a magnificent see-saw act, with a mother on one end and her child on the other, each working to maintain their balance while tipping too far in the other's direction. It's set almost exclusively in a single, tiny Parisian apartment, and the way Hou, with his trademark roving lens, navigates this cramped space and all the people that come and go within it is as dazzling as any other virtuoso action sequence one might come across in the theaters this summer. As the credits were rolling, Yen asked if we should be worried that this was our idea of a good time, as if that might speak poorly for our chances of sustaining a career in this field. Heck, I'm already more broke than the day I was born; sticking to my guns isn't gonna do me any worse than it already has.

Posted by David Lowery at June 21, 2008 3:31 PM

Comments

Yeah, I liked this a plenty. It did mark the first time I've seen someone walk out of the theater within the first 5 minutes, however.

I feel pretty sure that the balloon involved some visual effects, but something simple like having some strings pulling it from the balloon part, and then erasing those strings digitally. The balloon moved as though it had a mind of its own, which I thought made the whole idea more amusing. Furthermore, I seem to remember the first shot lingering on the boy for a long time and then panning up to the balloon and following that for a while, which seems pretty risky and not worth doing several takes of with that boy in order to get a nice balloon dance.

Plus the Song character makes what I thought was a funny reference to digitally erasing a person dressed in green holding a balloon.

Posted by: Matt Latham at June 23, 2008 12:33 AM