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The Red Balloon / The White Mane(1956)
On the way to school one morning, a small boy finds a red balloon that attaches itself to him with a human-like intent.
For more about The Red Balloon / The White Mane and the The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray release, see the The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 29, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 29, 2010
Winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival, French director Albert Lamorisse's "Le ballon rouge" a.k.a "The Red Balloon" (1956) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Network. The disc also contains the director's "Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage" a.k.a "White Mane" (1953), as well as two long and very informative documentary features, "Mon Pere un Ballon Rouge" and "L'enfant Qui ne Souriait Pas." With imposed English subtitles. Region-Free.
They meet on the streets of Paris. At first, he seems a bit shy, but then warms up and goes for a walk with the young boy (Pascal Lamorisse). At school, the other kids are impressed with the boy's new friend. He likes them, too - but not as much as he likes the boy. Now the boy must go to class, but he would wait for him. Perhaps later on they could go for another walk and the boy would show him the neighborhood.
The boy invites his new friend to his place but his grandmother immediately throws him out. O, well, if she won't let him in through the door, he would let him in through the window. He is harmless -- why is she so mean to him?
On the following day, the boy is late for school. This gets him in trouble with one of the school officials, but he gets in trouble with his new friend. The boy loves it - this is the type of friend he always wanted to have. They should have met earlier.
On the way back home, a group of kids attempt to steal his friend. They run away and try to hide but lose each other. Later on, they meet again, but a kid throws a stone at his friend and hurts him badly. His friend falls - then quietly dies. The boy is heartbroken. He was the best friend he ever had - and it does not matter that he was just a giant red balloon.
Albert Lamorisse cast his own son to play the young Pascal in Le ballon rouge, and he delivered an unforgettable performance - the unique chemistry between the boy and the balloon is indeed what makes this film so special. As strange as it may sound, for awhile it does seem like they were meant to be together.
The special effects in this only 34-minute long film are excellent. The balloon's moves are captured in a truly unique manner - especially on the day after the boy befriends the balloon and they play for the first time - and in quite a few scenes it truly feels like the balloon is alive.
Cinematographer Edmond Sechan has captured perfectly the timeless allure of the City of Lights. The gray cobblestone streets, the dark alleys and pastry shops are all filmed in a way that makes one believe that miracles can happen. Maurice Leroux's music score is also an integral part of this most wonderful film.
The second film included on this Blu-ray disc is Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage a.k.a White Mane, which was shot by director Lamorisse a couple of years before Le ballon rouge. It is about a young boy, Folco (Alain Emery), who lives in the Camarque region in the South of France where he befriends a beautiful white-haired wild horse. Their friendship is tested by a group of ranchers.
Similar to Le ballon rouge, Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage is an incredibly beautiful and gentle film with only a few lines of dialog. It is also filled with symbolism that forces one to think about friendship, sacrifice and peace.
In 1953, Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage won the Grand Prize at Cannes Film Festival and the Prix Jean Vigo for Best Short Film. In 1956, Le ballon rouge won the prestigious Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. A year later, the film won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.
The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Albert Lamorisse's Le ballon rouge arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Network.
I've seen Le ballon rouge a number of times during the years, and I feel very comfortable stating that this is the best this wonderful French film has ever looked. Fine object detail, clarity and contrast levels are lovely. The film's color-scheme is also a lot more convincing here - the blacks, browns, blues and reds are a lot richer; on the Criterion SDVD, for example, they look weak. Furthermore, there is a healthy dose of grain that is noticeable throughout the entire film, and even though there is a bit of digital noise that pops up occasionally, when blown through a digital projector The Red Balloon looks absolutely terrific. Finally, I noticed a few tiny flecks but did not see any large cuts, debris, or warps.
Network's Blu-ray disc also contains director Lamorisse's Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage. The British distributors included the film as a bonus (initially, Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage was not supposed to appear on the disc), and I personally am delighted to have it on Blu-ray. This said, Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage does not look as strong as Le ballon rouge - contrast levels and clarity are somewhat inconsistent - but I believe that the original element, which most European distributors apparently have access to, is quite problematic (Criterion's SDVD release, for example, also conveys a lot of the same issues that you would notice on this transfer). As you would see from our captures, around the edges the film looks rough; the grain is also inconsistent. Contrast levels, however, are pleasing. Still, considering that Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage is practically a free gift from Network, I really can't see how anyone could be disappointed with it. (Note: Even though the back cover of this Blu-ray disc indicates a Region-B "locked" status, this is actually a Region-Free release. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no PAL content preceding the disc's main menu).
The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track for each film: French LPCM 2.0. For the record, the English subtitles are imposed (but in The Red Balloon there are only a dozen or so lines in French).
Le ballon rouge - Maurice Leroux's wonderful orchestral score sounds quite good; the strings are gentle, and the woodwinds and brass crisp and clear. The wonderful clarinet solos, in particular, sound a lot better here compared to the SDVD. Understandably, the dynamic amplitude is rather limited, but the overall quality of the French LPCM 2.0 track is indeed very good.
Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage - the dialog is clear and easy to follow, but occasionally there is mild background hiss that you would notice. Again, Maurice Leroux's score is very effective, though a bit uneven. Still, the overall sound quality is good.
The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features on this disc are in PAL. Therefore, if you reside in North America or another region where PAL is not supported, you must have a Region-Free player capable of converting PAL to NTSC, or a TV set capable of receiving native PAL data, in order to view them.
Mon Pere un Ballon Rouge - a wonderful documentary on director Albert Lamorisse and the unique spirit of his films. In French, with optional English subtitles. (52 min).
L'enfant Qui ne Souriait Pas - a detailed and somewhat controversial portrait of Alain Emery, the principal actor in The White Mane. The actor recalls his work on the film, the time he spent at Cacharel, etc. In French, with optional English subtitles. (44 miin).
The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is a fantastic package by British distributors Network! It is now one of my favorite Blu-ray discs. If you have never seen these two stunningly beautiful films, please take my words for granted and consider adding them to your libraries - I guarantee you will watch them over and over again! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Red Balloon Gets January Date, Bundled White Mane - October 16, 2009
Network DVD has set a January 18 date for the UK Blu-ray release of Albert Lamorisse's 'The Red Balloon' (Le ballon rouge). This 1956 short film, about a red balloon that follows a boy around the streets of Paris, was awarded at Cannes, and won an Oscar for Best ...
The Red Balloon / The White Mane Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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