Monday, July 9, 2012

Paris In July 2012

When I signed up for Paris In July 2012, I had no idea what I would do for it. I knew I probably wouldn't have time for a book, but since anything French was an option so I turned to my go-to place these days - Pinterest. Type in "Paris" in the search box and you get almost exclusively pictures of the Eiffel Tower which seemed like something of a cliched place to start. But in many of the pictures, there were balloons and that took me straight down memory lane. When I was growing up, there was a program on television called CBS Children's Film Festival, hosted by Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.

Kukla, Fran, and Ollie
With all of the programming available for children these days, there doesn't seem to be anything like it on television any more. The program showed live action films for children from around the world. It was my first real glimpse into life in other places and many of the movies have remained with me for all of these years. The movies dealt with topics including friendship, bullying, racism and bigotry, animal rights and sexism. They were marvelous films and I definitely recommend checking out this site if you have young children.

Of all of the movies that appeared on the series, my favorite was always The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge). Perhaps that's because it was also shown on other telecasts and in my school and I just saw it more. Perhaps it's because it was so cinematically different. Or perhaps it was Paris that stayed in my mind.

The Red Balloon, 1956

The Red Balloon is the story of Pascal who finds, one day on his way to school, an enormous red balloon. This is no ordinary balloon - this balloon seems almost human and patiently waits for Pascal while he's in school, plays keep away, and even torments the teacher who punishes Pascal for having the balloon. When the balloon is destroyed by a group of boys who have been chasing Pascal all over the city, poor Pascal is left standing alone in field, sad to lose his friend. Then, all over the city, balloons begin floating away toward Pascale in the field. When he grabs them into his hands, he is lifted up and the movie  closes with Pascale floating away over Paris.

I found The Red Balloon on YouTube recently and was happy to discover that it has lost none of its charm for me. The movie has a lovely soundtrack, almost no dialogue, and only carefully placed background noises which allow the viewer to really concentrate on the story. Color also plays a big part in the movie. Most of the background and all of the costumes are faded blues, greys, and browns making the colors of the balloons really pop. It made me wonder if Steven Spielberg has seen the movie and was inspired by that when he did Schindler's List.

The part of Paris that the movie is shot in no longer exists - it had fallen into decay and was torn down by the government in the 1960's. Already in 1956 when the movie was made, the decay is obvious but plays a part in bringing a depth to a story that seems so simple on the surface. Pascale's and the balloon's friendship and love are destroyed by a cruel mob but Pascale's goodness is rewarded in the end. Definite religious overtones I never noticed when I watched the movie as a child.

On an altogether lighter tone, here are some other things I noticed about the movie watching it as an adult:

Pascale's clothes are every bit as odd as I remember them being, very European.

There's a scene in a flea market that practically made me drool. Can you imagine the great things you might have found in a Paris flea market in 1956?

Why would so many boys be so eager to get their hands on that balloon only to destroy it? Oh yeah, back to the deeper meaning of the film. But still, why didn't I think that was really strange as a child? Even then it must not have struck me as odd that people could be that mean.


  1. Ah, kids and cruelty. I just don't know how I feel about all this anti-bullying legislation, I mean HOW do you ever use laws to make people treat each other right and how do laws ever teach us how to stand up to it?

    I loved Kukla Fran and Ollie as a kid but I don't remember much. and ol' Capt Kangaroo. :)

  2. What an inspired way to find something about Paris to write about! I only saw the film of The Red Balloon a few times, but we had the picture book and I looked at it countless times so that when I did see the film it was very, very familiar. Interesting speculation with regards to Schindler's List.

  3. You're bringing back memories! I haven't seen or thought of The Red Balloon in a long time. I will have to search for it on You-Tube and rewatch it. I remember loving it when I was growing up, especially the music.

  4. I think I may have seen this, but can't really remember, so I am grateful for your link so that I will be able to watch it and see for sure. It does sound beautiful and also a tad sad. I am glad that everything works out for Pascal in the end though! Fantastic post today. This touching story just made my day.

  5. Disappointed that you didn't mention my entire site devoted to the show.

  6. Oh my gosh, Mark - I had every intention of linking to your site! Everyone who ever enjoyed the movies on the CBS Children's Film Festival should definitely check out!

  7. I've never seen this film. Though, I have heard of it. I think it's on Hulu plus in their Criterion collection. I'll check it out.

  8. I remember watching Kukla, Fran, and Ollie!! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.