French Film Festival – Red Balloon & White Mane and The Intimate Enemy

Yesterday was filled with cinematic awesomeness. First up was a pair of short kids films from the Fifties which have won pretty much every prize and award going at the time and are often proclaimed as classics of French cinema. let me say here and now that The Red Balloon and White Mane could never be made today. Both show a world view and an attitude to children that is just not allowed any more. These films owe much more to the un-sugar-coated tales of the Brothers Grimm and the fact that they were made within ten years of the end of the Second World War.

The Red Balloon explained that kids are evil – not in a malicious, purposeful way. It's just that they enjoy scapegoating each other, alienating anyone who is different from the group and stomping his only friend – a red balloon – until pops. Of course, this prompts all the balloons in Paris to rise up in revolution (the French are good at this, I'm led to understand). But instead of the ending with the Great Balloon Massacre, as I expected, the balloon horde pick up the kid – the balloon's friend – and carry him off into the sky where balloons and kids are never separated. (Evidently no one thought of the emotional impact of this on the kid's parents – certainly the kid doesn't care.)

White Mane is very similar given that it's by the same writer/director, Albert Lamorisse. This time, the kid is a pre-teen fisherman in the swamps of the Camargue and his family's only visible means of support, and the balloon is a Camargue Horse hunted by evil, tradition-bound but capitalist ranchers. The kid and horse end up jumping into the sea and swimming to the land where kids and horses are never separated. (Of course, the kid is unconcerned that his family is now going to die of slow starvation.)

broke during this film. Both the kid and the horse have long blond locks falling over their eyes and look like emos in photographic negative. The idea that the only way to achieve peace is to make a suicide pact with your best friend and ride the white horse to oblivion snapped his mind. It actually heard it pop.

Next was The Intimate Enemy, a movie about the French war in Algeria in the late 1950s – early 1960s. I saw this with and . This was simply great. It showed violence and inhumanity as everyday events and the very banality of them is the source of the evil which destroys men's souls. It had none of the schmolts or forced emotional triggers of any similar Hollywood war movie of the last ten years. I'm still figuring out the depth of the debate in the film but it seems to revolve around the idea that although a form of idealism on both sides may start wars the conduct of the war will ultimately destroy any idealist taking part in it. There's a lot more to it but that's a start. Go and see it. It's simply awesome.

Oddly enough, Albert Dupontel played a major role and pretty much the same character in this film as he did in Chrysalis. The difference is that we saw why his grimness was unrelenting in Algeria as opposed to his unrelenting grimness without any obvious reason in the other film.