Flight of fancy

PUBLISHED: 15:43 12 March 2008 | UPDATED: 17:10 16 August 2010

TAKING Albert Lamorisse s classic short The Red Balloon as a starting point,

Flight Of The Red Balloon

Cert PG

TAKING Albert Lamorisse's classic short The Red Balloon as a starting point, Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao Hsien's French language debut is a graceful study of loneliness and isolation as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy.

In keeping with the director's previous work, such as Flowers of Shanghai and Three Times, the film is gentle and understated and Hsein has chosen to retain the central image of the Lamorisee short, namely that of a young boy who is mysteriously followed by a red balloon, but playfully presents it in a number of different guises.

Simon (Simon Iteanu) is an introverted youngster who idles away his time playing video games and watching TV. Between her job at a Chinese puppet theatre and the constant arguments with his absentee father, his mother Suzanne (Juliette Binoche) has little time for her son and so decides to hire Song (Sing Fang), a Taiwanese film student, to act as the boy's nanny. Song takes to Simon and decides to make a short film of him carrying a red balloon around Paris in homage to Lamorisse's famous piece and the bond between the two starts to develop.

Binoche's nuanced portrayal of Suzanne is spot on and adds a manic energy to the proceedings that is as frazzled as her dodgy bleach-blonde hairdo. The other leads deliver capable performances and capture some genuinely touching moments as Simon's interest and sensibilities are piqued by Song as she takes him on a journey of imagination and discovery.

Though it may be a little slow-moving for some, the film is packed with beautiful languid shots of Paris and subtle acting and rewards patient viewers with an unassuming but emotionally-engaging cinematic experience.

* The Flight of the Red Balloon opens in cinemas on March 14.

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