Archive for Jean Rochefort

Tardi Sweep

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2019 by dcairns

APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD — I think the title doesn’t quite work in English — too vague — is a rather dazzling and genuinely charming steampunk adventure inspired by the works of cartoonist Jacques Tardi, also the source for Luc Besson’s THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC (the key word here is “extraordinary,” it would seem).

Besson is a bugbear of mine. There are the films that are just hateful, the ones that are nearly good, or good in places and upsetting in others, and then there are his attempts to be charming, which are horrible. I think probably he has an awful personality (Google “Luc Besson accusations”) and he’s one of those guys who can’t help but put himself into his work. For all his limitations, Michael Winner had something similar going on, you always felt you were in the hands of a nasty piece of work. In the case of ADELE BS, Besson’s decision to plaster his supporting cast in grotesque, no, UGLY makeups is a great bit of self-revelation, in that it tries to be about capturing a comic-book ambience (the way the live-action Tintin movies gave Captain Haddock a bizarre, painted-on beard, or Robin Williams’ corky arms in POPEYE) but doesn’t resemble Tardi’s attractive caricatures whatsoever. It can be read only as an eruption of nastiness from somewhere outwith the project.

When I worked in animation, abortively, my colleague remarked “There’s only so much shit a thing can contain before it’s JUST SHIT.” Besson always gives me a little more shit than I can overlook.

Whereas, I’m glad to say, AATEW (AVRIL ET LE MONDE TRUQUE, or “fake world,” in the original — which doesn’t really fit the story either) is properly delightful. Marion Cotillard and the late Jean Rochefort do voices. The characters and setting look enough like Tardi to pass and there’s humour, constant delightful invention, and no Bessonian bum notes. Nobody can really draw like Tardi, and they certainly can’t mass-produce Tardi drawings in sufficient quantity for an animated feature film, and computers certainly can’t do it, but with enough skill, respect and taste there’s a possibility of getting close enough to be pleasing. This, the filmmakers (directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci, writers Ekinci and Benjamin Legrand) have succeeded in marvelously.

The production design is fabulous, the colour a little cautious (as with BELLEVILLE RENDEZVOUS, a tendency towards sepiatone), the character design not as pleasing as Tardi would have made it but a long way from the unpleasantness of Besson’s silliy-putty fizzogs. But the story and the story world unite to create something really imaginative and fresh and appealing.

I liked the characters (just not the way the younger ones are drawn), who all have proper arcs and make something sweetly nostalgic out of their generic limitations. There are some good laughs. There’s a talking cat who may not be Jiji from KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE but is bloody excellent. Fiona was impressed by the anatomical exactitude of his rear elevation. Probably STEAMBOY will remain the ultimate in animated steampunk spectacle, and LAPUTA THE FLYING ISLAND the most truly wonderful, but this is quite a bit more quaint and charming — there’s an airship-powered funicular railway, ffs — the belt and braces approach to retro-futurist whimsy.

What allows it to be both charming and interesting is that the filmmakers know what we want and don’t want, and can skirt the edges of thr latter to keep it interesting. There are characters who, if they died, would really upset us. So the filmmakers threaten their lives and make us believe that they COULD die, there could be a less pleasing version but still acceptable version of the film where that happens. Whereas, the only thing that upset us was the destruction of the WALKING HOUSE, which was a house we adored and were ready to make an offer on.

Should work for kids and adults. Don’t know why it isn’t better known.

Timehorse

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 31, 2015 by dcairns

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LE TEMPS DE MOURIR (1970) is one I started for Seventies Sci-Fi week but didn’t finish quickly enough. Despite some shaky direction — first timer Andre Farwagi hadn’t learned the 180º rule yet — I was sufficiently intrigued by the basic plot premise to finish watching, and was reasonably glad I did.

Anna Karina starts the movie by riding her horse into a tree, She’s rescued by millionaire Bruno Cremer, who is startled to discover in her possession a video recorder showing him being shot by a man he doesn’t know (but we know him: it’s Jean Rochefort!). Both Karina, who has total amnesia of the kind only available in sensational fiction, and the tape appear to have come from the future. With the aid of bodyguard Billy Kearns (one of the detectives in Welles’ THE TRIAL, speaking execrable French), Cremer tries to find out why a total stranger is apparently going to kill him on camera.

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What nobody, including the writers, explore, is how Karina time-traveled back from the end of the film to the beginning. She’s a one-woman Moebius strip, apparently existing only in this temporal loop, her memory erasing itself as her life circles eternally round. This is actually the film’s most intriguing element, and it’s left to the audience to explore it after the story is over. Nobody in the movie gets a chance.

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Is Anna Karina’s horse a time machine?

I was very taken with Cremer’s home computer, a tinted plastic face, illuminated from behind, set into the wall. I would like a computer like that.

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Farwagi’s career has been quite sporadic. His next production was in 1978, a sexy girl school romp with Nastassja Kinski, LEIDENSCHAFTLICHE BLUMCHEN, which I watched on late-night TV as a teenager in hopes of nudity. I was not disappointed: Farwagi opens the film with a zoom out from a close-up of a tit. Probably influenced by Kubrick.

Remain Calm

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 6, 2009 by dcairns

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…but head over to the Auteurs’ Notebook where Bertrand Blier’s CALMOS is today’s special, as part of The Forgotten series of columns. Featuring some of the strangest and wrongest images ever to appear on that august site.