“Joelle and Dr. Incandenza found themselves in a small conversation about Bazin, a film-theorist Himself detested, making a tormented face at the name. Joelle intrigued the optical scientist and director by explaining Bazin’s disparagement of self-conscious directorial expression as historically connected to the neo-Thomist Realism of the ‘Personalistes,’ an aesthetic school of great influence over French Catholic intellectuals circa 1930-1940 — many of Bazin’s teachers had been eminent Personalistes.”
When we watched Le Ballon Rouge my daughter wasn’t struck by the illusion of balloons as sentient self-propelled agents, since she has grown up with movies populated by talking animals and household appliances that go on quests. What strained her credulity was the world of little kids running around a big city all by themselves. In contemporary America kids are practically never left alone, and they certainly never go anywhere without adult escort. Now our daughter spent part of her childhood in urban France, where adults are much less intrusive in their children’s lives, but even in France the fear of pederasts and other predators is such that the free-range child is nearly obsolete.
In contemporary France the schools remain off-limits to parents. Most schools are nearly invisible from the street, cloistered behind massively hideous stone-and-concrete walls like the one in Le Ballon Rouge. The iron gates to this pedagogical redoubt are opened at the beginning and end of the day and at lunchtime, keeping out parents and others who don’t beling there. School is a world populated solely by children and adults who are not your parents. From the psychological and at times physical cruelty of teachers no protection can be expected — the children, individually and collectively, must figure out a way to get by. Our daughter’s fifth grade teacher, explaining the feudal system of medieval Europe, compared it to the school: peasants/lords/king = students/teachers/principal; just as no peasant can aspire to nobility, so no student, regardless of age or accomplishment, can aspire to the level of teacher.
Last night I attended a meeting of the parent discussion group for Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted students (SARG). The meeting was held at the Boulder Valley School District Education Center and was co-facilitated by two educators who work for the District as gifted specialists. French parents wouldn’t have believed it. There’s an internet site called Infinite Campus that’s an electronic grade book, kept up to date minute by minute by all the teachers and accessible (via password protection) to every student and parent in the District. One of the moms said that if she spots a less than stellar mark on her son’s paper or test she expects him to ask the teacher specifically what he did wrong, how he can do better next time, if there’s an extra credit project he can do to compensate for the missed points, etc. There’s also a “service” run by the phone company whereby a parent can monitor the location of anybody in the family via GPS implant in the family members’ mobile phones. Mom logs into the internet site and within 60 seconds the location of each kid’s phone is displayed on a map, which I presume offers sufficiently precise resolution that you can zero in on a particular address (and room of the house?). It’s the panopticon, intruding into kids’ every minute away from home. No wonder the domestic surveillance programs of Homeland Security don’t seem like that big a deal.
The little boy with the balloon is called Pascal, emphasizing the mythic Christian theme of the film. But the boy’s name really is Pascal — Pascal Lamorisse, son of Albert Lamorisse, the filmmaker. You wonder whether dad wishes he could follow his son around town all day like he does in the movie, protecting him from mean teachers and bullies. But his camera only watches, sympathetic but powerless, as the catastrophe unfolds. Did Albert wonder why the Big Panopt didn’t do a better job of protecting his own son on Mount Golgotha? It turns out that Albert Lamorisse invented the board game Risk, the object of which is to control the world. It also turns out that Albert L. died in a helicopter crash on a film shoot in Iran, demonstrating that sometimes parents expose themselves to risks they can’t escape.
“There’s an internet site called Infinite Campus that’s an electronic grade book, kept up to date minute by minute by all the teachers and accessible (via password protection) to every student and parent in the District”
Sounds like K12 planet – an gradebook website that I was bounded by growing up.
That’s a really interesting reading, Ktis. Comments later (too busy with reading at the moment)
I loved this film with the red balloon. The thing with grade obsession is a bit opposite to the idea of loosing a child to play and wander after a balloon just for the enjoyment of it.
I know the fear of not knowing where my children are, but a detection system? Can you get therapy for this anxiety?
I can imagine that inventing a game called risk is a way of dealing with risk anxiety.
“I know the fear of not knowing where my children are, but a detection system? Can you get therapy for this anxiety?”
Good question, which I don’t think came to this mother’s mind or to anyone else’s. No one seemed to think this was bizarre control-freak behavior besides me. At least the kids can disable the signal by turning off their phones, but of course that act in and of itself invites suspicion from the surveillance mother.