Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April and the Extraordinary World

Even before I bought my ticket, I was wondering to myself which niece would be receiving a copy of this for her birthday or Christmas, because, as you might imagine, that's my thing: Getting the girlies the movies that they might not get from anyone else in the family because who else knows about new French animated movies and the heirs to Studio Ghibli? This is what an uncle like me is for, right?

Don't know about this one, though. It's great and I love it, and given that I try to find movies for them with active lady protagonists, and Avril being an adventuring scientist seems like a jackpot. I'm just a bit worried that, despite the PG rating, it might be a little too intense for the younger ones, and I don't know if the nine-year-old would be into steampunk and superintelligent komodo dragons.

Ah, well. One will probably get this anyway, because it's just that good.

Avril et le monde truqué (April and the Extraordinary World)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 10 April 2016 at Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run, DCP)

The French title of this film, "Avril et le Monde Truqué", actually translates to "April in the Twisted World", which may be more fitting, because as much as it is extraordinary and a delight to watch, it's a genuinely weird movie. It's got something eye-catching, funny, and thrilling in just about every frame. It's a shame that this style of animated adventure has never been popular in the United States, because it's a terrific fantasy that merits a greater big-screen audience than it will get here.

It kicks off in 1870, with Napoleon III paying a visit to Dr. Franklin, looking for a serum vitae to make his soldiers invulnerable in the coming war with Prussia. Things do not go well, setting history on a different course, and come 1931, son Prosper "Pops" Franklin (voice of Jean Rochefort), along with grandson Paul Franklin (voice of Olivier Gourmet) and his wife Annette (voice of Macha Grenon), are among the few fugitive scientists who have not disappeared or been recruited to work on weapons by the government, and a raid leaves Avril, the daughter of Paul & Annette, and her talking cat Darwin (voice of Philippe Katerine) on their own. Ten years later, Avril (voice of Marion Cotillard) secretly continues her family's work to try and find the serum to revitalize Darwin, not realizing she's being tailed by petty thief Julius (voice of Marc-André Grondin) and more sinister forces.

Though the story is credited to Benjamin Legrand and co-director Franck Ekinci, the big name in the credits for some will be Jacques Tardi, a legendary creator of bandes dessinés credited with graphic design. His signature is on every frame, even if the style is softer than Tardi's usual (despite Avril being a no-nonsense heroine cut from the same cloth as Adèle Blanc-Sec); he's been doing steampunk comics since before it had that name, and knows how to make it delightful in its ornamented grandeur - twin Eiffel Towers which act as the terminus for a tramway that runs all the way to Berlin! - while not losing track of how such a stream-powered world would be strangled with smoke. Gas makes are on every corner, even on dogs out for a walk. He and the rest of the filmmakers create a world of wonders, but not one that is scrubbed clean.

Full review on EFC.

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