Critic Reviews



Based on 23 critic reviews provided by
Village Voice
Flight of the Red Balloon is in a class by itself. In its unexpected rhythms and visual surprises, its structural innovations and experimental perfs, its creative misunderstandings and its outré syntheses, this is a movie of genius.
This is not a children's picture, although it touches on the imaginative powers and emotional resilience of children. It's another slice of Hou's distinctly poetic realism, and as such, also a kind of tribute to Paris -- the Paris of both today and of the older film.
Juliette Binoche is outstanding as a wildly untogether single mother who parks her son with a French-speaking Chinese nanny while she whirls and worries.
It's both happy and sad. That's exactly the way to describe Hou's marvelous film as well.
In The Flight of the Red Balloon, the great Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien uses Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 masterpiece "The Red Balloon" as a springboard for his own masterpiece--a distinctively modern and allusive one, yet so tender and plaintive that you understand what Hou is up to on a preconscious level.
In the end what elevates Mr. Hou’s films to the sublime -- and this one comes close at times -- are not the stories but their telling.
This eloquent study of loneliness and postmodern drift likely will be received with more admiration than rapture by the helmer's followers. But Juliette Binoche's turn as a harried single mom and pic's enlivening portrait of domestic rupture make this a highly accessible Hou.
The A.V. Club
Flight was commissioned by producers overseas, and it feels similarly, impeccably slight.
Chicago Reader
There's not much story here, but the characters are substantial: a single mother (nicely played by Juliette Binoche) who runs a local avant-garde puppet theater and is preoccupied with such matters as a downstairs tenant who refuses to pay rent or leave, her neglected but mainly cheerful son, and his Taiwanese nanny, a filmmaker in her spare time.
Not surprisingly, we're left with characters that feel only half sketched and fail to resonate on their own -- but onto which much can be read by Hou's most ardent fans -- in a poetic looking film that's ultimately as inflated and empty as the balloon itself.

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