Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), Hou Hsiao Hsien
Just like the lightest veil can make a woman look more beautiful so Hou Hsiao Hsien, with a simple uncomplicated style and the slightest of narratives, can make the world seem more beautiful.
This may sound pretentious, but it isn't. It's the opposite: it's just the way it feels.
The dilemmas of a single mother (Suzanne) struggling with her son (Simon), her absent daughter and a nuisance tenant reach no resolution and no conclusion.
We float in and out of their story watching while she attempts to anchor her life. The titular balloon is rarely seen but we know that at any time it may be there, a calming and un-judging observer. The balloon is like the notes the piano tuner sounds over and over while Suzanne's anger and sadness is 'tuned' into a simple gesture of love between mother and son. It is a constant, a comfort, a thing of beauty for all to see (and for all to see in it what they want).
We are part of their family and we are with them for long periods. We sit in the corner of their cluttered apartment eating pancakes. We wait on a street corner for Simon and his nanny Song. We listen to Suzanne's childhood reminiscences. We watch Song's video of the balloon nudging and kissing it's own image painted on the wall.
Flight of the Red Balloon is relaxing and effortless, soft and melancholy in its light, its shadow and its reflections. It is delightful in the way it shows the power of film and memory and the way someone's voice or camera can give new life to old.
On the boulevards of Paris or in the family home, mannerisms, joys and frustrations are honoured and treated with the respect they deserve. In other words they are given time. The story is each moment. The film doesn't play with grand decisions and solid finalities. It has no time for blatant metaphysics, symbolism, or statements.
The world can be reinvigorated and given fresh meaning simply by being gazed at as if for the first time, like when a parent sees things through their child's eyes. This is an aspect of so much great art. That is what Flight of the Red Balloon does.