Blu-ray, DVD Release: The Red Balloon and Other Stories: Five Films by Albert Lamorisse

Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: Available now
Price: DVD $34.99, Blu-ray $61.72
Studio: Criterion

Everyday life becomes an adventure in the wide-eyed fables and fantasies of Albert Lamorisse. Balancing imaginative whimsy with documentary-like authenticity, his beloved short films Bim, the Little Donkey; White Maneand the Academy Award–winning The Red Balloon find unforgettable emotional, spiritual, and moral resonance in the realms of children and animals, while his captivating but now rarely seen features Stowaway in the Sky and Circus Angel exult in the glories of two of his greatest loves: nature and flight. With their astonishing cinematography and purity of spirit, these five enchanting works invite viewers of all ages to experience the wonder, mystery, and poignancy of the world anew.

Here a breakdown of the features on the Blu-ray, followed by descriptions of the films, which are all presented in French with English subtitles:

  • New 4K digital restorations of The Red Balloonand White Mane and new 2K digital restorations of Bim, the Little Donkey; Stowaway in the Sky; and Circus Angel, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
  • U.S. English-language version of Bim, the Little Donkey
  • New interview with actor Pascal Lamorisse, director Albert Lamorisse’s son
  • The Red Balloon (1956)

    My Father Was a Red Balloon, a 2008 documentary featuring Pascal Lamorisse and his daughter Lysa

  • French television interviews with Albert Lamorisse from 1957 and 1959
  • English narrations for White Mane, by Peter Strauss, and Stowaway in the Sky,by Jack Lemmon
  • English-dubbed track for Circus Angel
  • New English subtitle translation and English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • An essay by critic David Cairns

The Red Balloon (1956)
Rarely has the spirit of childhood been evoked as exquisitely as in this Academy Award–winning cinematic fable, a fantasy with the texture of reality. On the streets of 1950s Paris, a young boy (played by director Albert Lamorisse’s son, Pascal) is launched on a miraculous adventure when he’s playfully pursued by a shiny red balloon that seems to have a mind of its own—until the harsh realities of the world interfere, setting the stage for a deeply moving finale. Shot in beautifully muted Technicolor, this beguiling allegory of innocence and transcendence has inspired generations of viewers to let their imaginations take flight.

Bim, The Little Donkey (1951)
Featuring narration by celebrated poetic-realist writer Jacques Prévert, Albert Lamorisse’s first fiction film established his stylistic and thematic signatures: elegant simplicity, storybook-like voice-over, and empathetic concern for children and animals. Filmed on the Tunisian island of Djerba, this spirited adventure follows two boys—one poor and good-hearted, the other wealthy and spoiled—who go from rivals to friends as they set out to save a donkey from thieves. From the start, Lamorisse’s gift for bringing forth the inner lives of his nonhuman characters suffuses his art with an otherworldly magic.

White Mane (1952)

White Mane (1953)
Possessed of the timeless perfection of a fable, this tale about the unique bond between children and animals is Albert Lamorisse’s ode to the awe-inspiring majesty of nature. Amid the vast flatlands of the Camargue in the South of France lives White Mane, a magnificent wild stallion who refuses to be broken by men and instead forms a connection with a young boy, with whom he embarks on a daring quest for freedom. Fully capturing the rugged beauty of its marsh setting, this extraordinarily photographed treasure of children’s cinema—which won the Grand Prix for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival—speaks to the hearts of all creatures yearning to live untamed.

Stowaway in the Sky (1960)
Following the international triumph of The Red Balloon, Albert Lamorisse turned to feature filmmaking with another delightful tale of a boy and a balloon. Making spectacular use of Helivision—an innovative aerial photography technique he developed—Lamorisse takes us on the breathtaking odyssey of a young boy (played by his son, Pascal) who sneaks aboard his inventor grandfather’s experimental new hot-air balloon for a voyage across France. Soaring above cathedrals and castles, the Mediterranean and the Alps, Stowaway in the Sky celebrates the natural world and ponders, with surprising existential insight, the place of human beings within it.

Circus Angel (1965)
Albert Lamorisse’s second and final foray into narrative feature filmmaking is a whimsical visual enchantment and an elegant and eccentric comedy. In it, a daring young thief (Philippe Avron)—having been affixed with a pair of wings in order to become a flying circus attraction—finds himself mistaken for an angel, spreading both mischief and goodwill as he travels across the countryside. Lamorisse’s love of flight and his gentle humanism shine through in this work of impish charm and exuberant inspiration.

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.