April and the Extraordinary World [Avril et le monde truqué] (2015)

Tres magnifique!

(Which is French for “Whooo Hooo!”)

Not long ago I stumbled across an absolutely brilliant graphic novel entitled The Arctic Marauder by French cartoonist Jacques Tardi.  It might best be described as a seriously demented version of a lost Jules Verne novel, filled with eccentric characters, incredible steam-powered inventions, and a gleefully convoluted plot.  Tardi would return to this same Steampunk milieu in several later books – and particularly in his Adele Blanc-Sec series.

So it comes as little surprise when first time directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci and their screenwriter, Benjamin Legrand , decided to create a wondrous steampunk film about a young woman trying to find her missing scientist parents, they asked Tardi to design it for them.

As I noted in my review of .hack//Beyond the World, most animated films today try to look like Pixar (or, in Japan, like Miyazaki) and only a few European films try to create their own distinctive styles.  Here, they’ve chosen to copy the style of one of the most popular graphic novelists in France.

And what is more remarkable, they’ve done far more than let him design the hardware, backgrounds and characters.  Instead, they’ve done their best to bring Tardi’s unique style to the screen, with not merely the designs, but the basic line, the color scheme and the faces of his characters all clearly the work of Tardi.  Notably, April, with her rather large nose and solid body looks an awful lot like Adele – and I should note that one of the most intriguing parts of Tardi’s work is that Adele was never meant to be a raving beauty:   instead, she is deliberately somewhat average in appearance, something I find rather refreshing in our beauty obsessed age.

Everything about this film is excellent, from the extraordinary settings, the deftly-told story, the action and the insane hardware, to the solid backstory for its alternate history.  Science Fiction is rare enough in animated film, but this is one of most incredible animated films to hit the screen in a long time.  Any film with “Pops”‘ steam house in it has to be great.  One can only hope that Desmares and Ekinci will bring us more films like this one (or, even better, unlike it).

Oh, for goodness sakes, what are you waiting for?  Go watch it already.

(However, I have to note one minor peeve:  when in the world is GKids going to start packaging the original language track with their releases?  I mean, they’re going out and publishing some of the most interesting and distinctive animated films out there and making them available to the mainstream market.  Shouldn’t they at least include the original, even if only as an option?)

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