In case we haven't already persuaded you, this is this week's final little shove for all of our readers (at least those in the NYC area) to go out and see Flight of the Red Balloon this weekend. It's often been said in the past that the films of Hou Hsiao-hsien are an acquired taste...but you're sorely mistaken if you think that can get you out of your moviegoing duties. In this case, "acquired taste" can only mean "good taste." Hou Hsiao-hsien's film may not be a children's film in the traditional sense, but I haven't felt so transported back to a state of sublime innocence as I have here in quite some time.
Here are some thoughts from Reverse Shot staff writers:
Chris Wisniewski at indieWIRE: ". . . the level of craft on display (in her performance, in Hou's rigorous command of mise-en-scene and elegant camera movement, and in Mark Lee Ping Bing's exquisite cinematography) is staggering. Flight of the Red Balloon could be described as quiet or mundane—a camera pans across the floor of an apartment, cluttered with papers that have been pulled out of drawers in a fruitless attempt to locate a missing document; a boy scolds his mother after she inadvertently knocks a lamp; a woman takes a picture of her two children at play. Emotional undercurrents rise and linger just beneath the surface, and these small moments accumulate, laying bare an enveloping human drama at once unassuming and profound, serene and searing."
Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot: "A remarkably rich, rewarding, and restful experience, Hou’s latest is a film like no other—in the simplicity of its lines, colors, and framing, and in the complexity of how those elements compound and contextualize its emotional subject matter, Flight of the Red Balloon can, in my mind, be compared to the works of Matisse. Despite this elevation, the film, miraculously, doesn’t feel like an artist’s grand summation, but rather just another in a long line of purely wrought canvases."
Nicolas Rapold at the New York Sun: "If not as demanding as Mr. Hou's past history-weighted works, "Flight" rewards multiple viewings, like revisiting a painting. The movie, in fact, ends with a grade-school student at a museum responding to Félix Vallotton's 'Le Ballon,' which depicts a child running (gaily? frantically?) after a ball. It's an appropriate end to a film that was commissioned by the Musée d'Orsay; Mr. Hou's wonderful film is indeed a living, breathing work of art and life."