By Owen Gleiberman
Updated November 21, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

More than any other children’s film, The Red Balloon turns me into a kid again whenever I see it. The timeless magic of Albert Lamorisse’s mostly wordless 34-minute 1956 fable, which is receiving a major rerelease (along with its good-if-not-quite-as-magical 1953 companion piece, White Mane), begins with the balloon itself, which looks like no other balloon you’ve ever seen. It’s so shiny and tactile, so luscious in its utter balloon-ness, that it’s like some wondrous spherical lollipop. In all the films set in the Paris streets, you have also never seen this light — this glowing painterly dawn that caresses the grayish buildings, as if it knew something they didn’t. As the balloon, with a mind of its own, follows Pascal, a towheaded schoolboy, making itself his companion — his spirit on a string — the film turns mischievous and almost primal in its innocence. More than ever, in this age of CGI, you think, How on earth did he do it? How did Albert Lamorisse get that balloon to ”walk” up and down streets, to hover outside windows, with no visible trickery? (You keep searching for a telltale thread?and not finding it.) That technical miracle is essential to the film’s effect, turning a ball of inflated latex into a true character. When it’s struck by a bully’s rock, the thing doesn’t merely shrivel — it damn near emotes. To see The Red Balloon is to laugh, and cry, at the impossible joy of being a child again. A