Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pokey in spots, and Juliette Binoche's dye job makes her look like she's auditioning to play Courtney Love, but I rather loved The Flight of the Red Balloon, especially since the original film is oh-so-precious. Rewatching a scene in which Binoche and Song Fang gently argue over the acceptance of a gift in the former's apartment, I was struck by how wittily Hou pans between the child and the adults; it's like James' What Maisie Knew -- this child barely cognizant of what these confused adults are up to; yet there's enough distance between his perceptions and ours that the two women's interactions are regarded quizzically, affectionately (the apartment in which most of the drama unspools becomes a fourth main character). As a Hou dilettante (I've only loved The Flowers of Shanghai and the silent bit in Three Times), I accepted the substitution of Paris for Taiwan, and the injection of Binoche's starpower into a scenario which under different circumstances might try my patience as much as it did Godfrey Cheshire's; if we can accept this beautiful woman as harried to the point of desperation, we can absolve the visual didacticism enforced whenever that damn red balloon bumps against a window. Star power as jus' folks.

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