It takes rare ability to tell a children's story that conveys the grace and significance of childhood without straying into the affectedly saccharine, oversimplified realm of cartoons and morality tales, but Albert Lamorisse managed to do it twice, both times winning the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or for the effort. Two short films from the 1950s, White Mane (Crin-Blanc) and The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge), released within four years of each other, tell the story of two boys befriended by ephemeral yet meaningful beings a wild stallion and a balloon who lead the characters out of the realm of ordinary life and into their imaginations.
Sadly, Lamorisse's own story ended in tragedy: He was killed in a helicopter crash over Tehran while shooting a documentary titled The Lovers' Wind. His widow finished the movie, and Lamorisse was nominated for his second Oscar he'd already won one for the Red Balloon screenplay posthumously in 1970.
Starting tonight and running through Thursday, December 27, Starz FilmCenter in the Tivoli will present newly restored 35mm versions of The Red Balloonand White Mane. For showtimes and tickets, go to www.denverfilm.org or call 303-595-3456.
Dec. 21-27, 2007