Archive for January 19th, 2014

by Sam Juliano

The very first film I ever saw in my very first cinema class remains vivid to me to the present day.  The class was “Introduction to Cinema,”  the teacher was Professor Anthony Esposito and the institution was Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey.  The film, unbeknownst to me at the time is a classic of the cinema, and a film I have revisited countless times since that first viewing some 40 years ago.  Albert Lamorisee’s beloved The Red Balloon has continued to reach new generations through DVD and film festivals, and if anything its reputation has risen.  Mind you the film was venerated back in the year of its release, and it subsequently won an Academy Award for its story and screenplay by the director, but it’s timeless appeal and universality has made it a popular film for film classes and thematic analysis.  Apparently the film has also left a  lasting impression on picture book artists.

The first time I negotiated the extraordinary, wordless images in Bob Staake’s arresting picture book Bluebird I immediately envisioned The Red Balloon transferred to a new medium.  A young boy is befriended by a bluebird, who follows him to and from school, helps him to make friends, all the while forming a deep emotional and spiritual bond.  In Lamorisee’s film, the film’s title specter steadfastly clung to the young French boy at school, on the bus and even at his city apartment and church.  While Staake has taken the central idea of the book, and narratively follows the euphoria and heartbreak, he does transpose the settings to a vibrant and wonderfully congested midtown Manhattan with it’s markets, circus cars, cafes, fish markets, street vendors and the backdrop of the Empire State Building and high rises.  When disaster does strike in a Central Park setting, one recalls the the pursuit of young boys in narrow Paris alleys and the final destruction of the boy’s guardian angel on a hill. (more…)

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