Great review. I think I liked the film even more than you. I was going to post a my own thoughts on it in the next couple of days if you're interested.
Thanks, Stephen - and I'll look forward to your own thoughts.
It's a fantastic review Joel, one of the best you've ever written in fact. I loved this passage most:"To take a step back from the emotional resonance, there's a possible film-historical reading here too; Hou - himself Taiwanese - has in a sense composed an elegy for the postwar European art film, a mournful acknowledgement that the vigor of the Truffauts and Godards has mostly dissipated in favor of a calmer, yet ultimately less cathartic, experience (that sturm und drang which the vibrant red balloon heralded in 1956 has come and gone.")But sadly I didn't care much for this film at all, which surprised me in view of my high regard for this director. I thought too much was read into a story with a (deliberate) dearth of narrative substance. The metaphysics were there, but the film didn't incorporate them into the laborious story, which in the end went nowhere, showcasing pretentiousness of the highest order. Yes, it's a snorer for sure, and I can well understand how your parents felt.The original RED BALLOON by Albert Lamorisee is one of the great joys of the cinema, and my fondness for it shows no bounds. FLIGHT is a dire homage, methinks.
Thanks, Sam. As for the movie, I knew you didn't care for it, but not that you loathed it that much! The film grew on me afterwards although I enjoyed watching it (just sort of sitting back and watching life flow by - with Binoche providing the necessary tension now and then). Only later did its thought-provoking significance dawn on me.I also forgot to mention that I've seen no other Hous, so I've nothing to compare this to! Glad you liked the review, though.
My review is up. It showcases my own "pretentiousness of the highest order".I'd be glad for some feedback if you have time.
Joel -- just realized I didn't have your blog in my RSS reader and quickly remedied that, so I'm catching up on your older posts.First off, that was a great, well-written review. You made plenty of points that lend me some new ways of looking at a movie that I initially didn't enjoy. I think you encapsulated the film perfectly when you say "Flight of the Red Balloon is, essentially, a home movie with nice photography." Without a doubt, Hou has a great mastery of the camera -- his colors and compositions are outstanding. So much so, that I actually felt I must be crazy for not liking the movie, only to watch it again and still end up with the feeling that I was missing whatever it was that makes it worthwhile. I think in the end it was the lack of any emotional connection to any of the events going on that did it in for me. I tried so hard to read into the piano tuning and the puppet show, but I really got nothing out of those. I needed something to latch onto and as much as I love Binoche, her character never really provided it. The most I could get from it was the view of Song as an outsider and as a surrogate for Hou, which you also pointed to.Or, perhaps it was due to the film evoking the original story of the Red Balloon and then not ever following through on that to my satisfaction that irked me.Ha -- I could have kept this short and said that I agreed with the initial line of your review after all (although "hate" would be a strong word for my reaction to the film).
Yeah, I don't think I LOVED the movie, but I liked it, and it grew in my estimation afterwards. Crucial to that liking was not coming to it with high expectations (though obviously I hoped I'd enjoy it): I'd never seen another Hou film, and my parents had already expressed their disenchantment with the film. So I didn't have much room to be disappointed. Keep commenting - even if it's on older posts, I'll see the notification and get back to you. I'm a big fan of keeping old entries alive.