Reading and traveling are two passions that I share with my seven-year-old daughter. Books, pamphlets, maps, magazines, newspapers, menus. Traveling a half-hour to the museum or across the ocean with our backpacks. My work as an elementary school Reading Specialist has naturally evolved into how I travel and read as a parent. Book recommendations will be given. Dialogue about learning to read and how to encourage the habits of lifelong readers is welcome.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"The Red Balloon," "White Mane," Reading Books, Going To The Movies

Watching new prints of Albert Lamorisse’s “White Mane” (1953) and “The Red Balloon” (1956) at the Film Forum yesterday, I was so riveted, I could barely catch my breath. I could barely speak about it afterward. The images of the film, their beauty, can I say deeply poetic without sounding like I’m grasping for language that captures also, the feeling? The film was so quiet that the questions kids in the audience asked – “why is he doing that?” “what happened?” seemed all the more poignant given the assault of kids’ movies now. You couldn’t hear a kid reflect on what they were seeing in say, “Bee Story,” if you wanted to, and do kids reflect? – given how kids are told what to feel, think, what is right, wrong, everything spelled out so there is nothing left to the imagination. The experience of having to watch carefully and follow with your heart is absent from children’s films today.

The dialogue is sparse in “The Red Balloon”. “White Mane” has also, light narration and dialogue. The original narration for “White Mane” was written by James Agee, which would be wonderful to read sometime. “The Red Balloon,” and “White Mane” are not yet available on Netflix, though hopefully they will be before long. Jeremy has put them on our queue.

The Film Forum distributed red helium balloons to the kids as we left, and Sylvia got the connection to the movie and the humor of how Pascal (acted by Lamorisse’s son, 6 at the time) treats the balloon like a pet. She wants to keep her balloon (now deflated, dark red, with soft thick white string) as her pet.

The hardcover copy of “The Red Balloon” - we have Jeremy’s copy from when he was a boy - came out shortly after the film. It has location photographs from the movie shoot. Apparently, all of these places in Paris have been razed, except for the church. There are later versions of the “The Red Balloon”, including one with drawings from a stage production – make sure you get the original. And if ever there was a way to elevate a book to magical significance on a child’s shelf, it would be to see this film.

Recommended Lamorisse Reading:

"The Red Balloon" (with photos taken during the filming of the movie) and "White Mane" in hardcover by Albert Lamorisse can be found on (all ages)


painterofblue said...

It's so rare for a movie to elevate a book! I'll have to make sure to see it.

The Modesto Kid said...

It's so rare for a movie to elevate a book

Right -- but in this case the book is just shots from the movie -- the movie is the "original" work.

Daddio said...

I remember The Red Balloon with much fondness from seeing it when I was in college--I had seen and enjoyed the book, the movie is magic. The final image of the balloons all coming together is breathtaking.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to assist John Ninomiya with a cluster balloon ascent--a real live Red Balloon experience. You can see John in action here: It was truly incredible.

Ellen Kahaner said...

wow - the balloon cluster is really incredible. thanks for the link.

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