Screened as part of NZIFF 2008
Commissioned by Paris' Musée d'Orsay to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien has delivered a subtle and richly resonant picture of life in the city, and a graceful homage to Albert Lamorisse's beloved Red Balloon.
There's often a woman at the centre of Hou's pictures and here it is Suzanne, an atypically and appealingly frazzled Juliette Binoche, barely juggling the conflicting demands of motherhood, infuriating apartment-sharing arrangements, and her art as a professional puppeteer. To help care for her seven-year-old son, she hires a Chinese film student who's working on a remake of the Lamorisse film. It's not Hou's way to build a dramatic structure around a character's difficulties. He doesn't need to: no other filmmaker alive possesses his ability to distil the essential dramas of people's lives into exquisitely observed sequences of everyday business. You leave this film with the fullest sense of Suzanne's rich, unruly existence: the ties that bind the cramped household, the circle of female adoration that protects the child, the elation of being in Paris. A wonderful film. — BG
"A work of tremendous precision and heartfelt emotion, made by one of the great artists in the medium... A gentle domestic comedy that becomes deeper, sadder and more mysterious as it goes along... I genuinely believe that, in its unassuming fashion, it's a masterpiece. Hou has approached one of the best-loved films in cinema history and the iconic, too-often-photographed scenery of Paris, and composed them into a bittersweet comic valentine that honors the originals but feels fully contemporary." — Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com