Review: The Extraordinary Adventures of Ad�le Blanc-Sec
Though it never really looked likely that he would follow through on his pledge to quit directing after his 10th film, for a while it did seem like Luc Besson had lost interest in directing live action cinema.
He seemed to be devoting his energies to writing and overseeing production on international actioners like the Transporter movies, District 13 or Taken or making the animated Arthur films.
So to some extent, this is the return of Besson — and cause for moderate celebration. He always struck me as being the most international of French directors.
Sure there was a certain gallic arrogance to him, but usually his films took American forms and gave them a twist that was more European than simply French.
Ad�le Blanc-Sec, though, is tres French — and French in the way only something based on a French cartoon strip can be.
I can't say I'm familiar with Jacque Tardi's creation but, on the evidence of this, I'd guess it would be a bit like a Tintin strip, without Tintin in it.
The film is set exactly a century ago in a Paris of a thousand Hercule Poirots. Among these ranks of bloated men with twirly moustaches and strained three-piece suits strides is intrepid young journalist Ad�le Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin), an adventurer who is more Mary Poppins than Indiana Jones.
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Ad�le laughs at fear and is ready for anything. Which is just as well as after a jaunt to Egypt, she returns to Paris and finds herself involved in period piece remake of Q – The Winged Serpent, when a 136 million-year-old egg in the Louvre suddenly hatches out a living pterodactyl.
The Extraordinary Adventures blends eye-popping fantasy with period detail and precisely the sort of strong female lead we'd expect from the man who gave us Nikita.
France certainly fell in love with Louise Bourgoin, for her portrayal of a thoroughly French heroine full of wit and charm. However all in all, this is still very a curious egg.
It's predominantly a light and fluffy comedy, but with a number of darker, more macabre touches. The lengthy title and the initial voiceover narration suggest some tip at Amelie is being made, but that is misleading.
It's probably more like the Asterix films in terms of being a rigidly faithful cartoon adaptation, though nowhere near as stilted.
It has a layer of enchantment over it, lots of pleasing touches and a few highly inventive set pieces, but there is something insular about it and probably it will only be fully appreciated by its home crowd.
I'm not sure this Blanc-Sec will travel.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Ad�le Blanc-Sec (12A)
Director: Luc Besson
With: Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve
Length: 107 mins