13 January 2001 | nicholas.rhodes
A colour record of a long lost part of Paris - Belleville !
I add to my commentary that the only place in the world the DVD of this film is available is the USA ( as of September 12 2005). The quality of this pressing and the colours leave to be desired .. they are rather washed out and with plenty of clicks and pops. The DVD is NOT region coded and will work on any machine accepting the NTSC color system. It is therefore better than nothing and will partly satisfy those who have been waiting for years to see this film again !
This truly magical and picturesque film is the colour record of the Belleville area of Paris which was razed to the ground during the late 1960's and left as waste land for 20 years.
Ninety-five percent of what you see in the film exists no more, the bakeries, the famous Y-shaped staircase situated just beyond the equally famous café "Au Repos de la Montagne" , the long-gone steep steps of the rue Vilin where Pascal finds the balloon initially etc, the waste ground where all the battles took place. All this has gone for ever, disappeared into another dimension, and has been replaced by a featureless modern-day park surrounded by ugly high-rise blocks built in the seventies and where it is not always safe to walk alone - the kids there certainly aren't running about after balloons these days, they're more interested in throwing stones at passers-by ! I personally visited recently on several occasions the site of where this was filmed and couldn't believe my eyes - it was like two different worlds !
One or two shots are taken in Montmartre and there is a brief glimpse of the Seine but be advised that the quasi-totality of the film was shot in Belleville and the adjacent "quartier des Pyrenees". Only the large church ( Notre-Dame de la Croix, between the Place Maurice Chevalier and the Place de Ménilmontant ) remains today, dwarfed by the high rise blocks I mentioned earlier. Only when you look to the top flats of the houses in the rue des Envierges and the sky beyond, can you maintain the illusion that time has stood still ! The opening scene in the film where Pascal is just about to go down the staircase cannot be reproduced today - both the bakery to his left - and the "Maison du Meunier" to his right (as well as the staircase) have been completely demolished !
Picture quality in the film is excellent and the weather seems to have been quite fine when they made it though I hasted to add that the recent DVD does not render justice to this.
The little boy in the film, Pascal Lamorisse, is the son of the director (Albert Lamorisse ). I wonder what has become of him. We here nothing of him today.........
The film unfortunately seems more well-known abroad than in France itself, where it would appear to have fallen into total oblivion, no doubt one day some bright spark will have it remastered and cleaned up and put on to a good quality DVD for future generations of children and adults alike.