“All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.” - Carl Jung
We watched a rather delightful French, fantasy/adventure film at the weekend, which is based on a French comic book heroine. It was the 2010 Luc Besson movie, “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec”, starring Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric and Gilles Lellouche. The screenplay was by Luc Besson and was based on the Jacques Tardi comic book series. The film was reminiscent of the Tin-Tin film or even the Indiana Jones series. Bresson uses live actors aided by suitable CGI, when required, to create a rollicking adventure full of humour and action. As one would expect in a fantasy film, the plot is quite unbelievable and over the top, however, if one has enjoyed films of the likes of Harry Potter, the why not dive into this film and savour its acidic sweetness reminiscent of a soft, sugary, little French dragée?
The plot centres on Mlle Adèle Blanc-Sec, a popular novelist and daring adventuress, who is fearless in her pursuit of knowledge, thrills and setting right wrongs in the name of good causes. Her latest mission is prompted by her desperation to cure her comatose sister. Adèle braves ancient Egyptian tombs and modern Egyptian lowlife to locate a renowned mummified doctor who has the ability to cure all manner of ills, and get him back to Paris. Her hope is that the magician-like Professor Espérandieu will then use his unusual powers to bring the doctor back to life so he, in turn, can use his centuries-old skills to cure Adèle’s unfortunate sister. Back in Paris, however, Professor Espérandieu is causing mayhem, having brought to life what was a safe fossilised museum egg, but is now a very active and predatory pterodactyl (thanks to CGI!).
When watching the film, one is struck by some great positive features that make it very enjoyable: Great, rollicking pace, wonderful editing, fantastic sets and costumes, sympathetic music, and a marvellous leading actress. This is in fact Louise Bourgoin’s film from beginning to end and she carries the movie with no apparent effort, slipping into the essence of the character of Mlle Adèle Blanc-Sec.
The rapid pace and exemplary editing is reminiscent of the shift from from panel to panel in a comic book. However, readers of the Tardi comics may be a trifle disappointed as Adéle in the movie has been “scrubbed clean” and has lost some of her sarcasm, her grungy charm and her characteristic bohemian lifestyle. In fact, the whole of Paris has been cleaned up, as the comics are darker and more menacing, full of lowlifes, incompetent policemen, rabid lunatics and sorry invalids of the war roaming the dirty streets. Nevertheless, the film works well and one must allow the poetic licence of the director deliver his own vision of Adèle.
Luc Besson has made some very memorable and enduring contemporary films such as action thrillers like “Nikita” and “Leon the Professional”, and wonderful science fiction cult films such as “The Fifth Element”. If you enjoyed the last mentioned film, you will no doubt love “Adèle”. Besson must have had great fun making this movie and his direction is snappy and delightful. The actors seem to be having great fun also and in addition to Ms Bourgoin’s great efforts, all supporting actors do a marvellous job to propel the action forward.
Unfortunately this film didn’t do too well in France and with a budget of 25 million euros, the worldwide box-office sum of $34 million on 6 May 2011, indicates that the film did not live up to the profit-making expectations of the producers. Although there is a hint of a sequel in the closing scenes, I don’t foresee one coming up in the near future… Watch this one and enjoy it.