Here we are with the twelfth part of my checklist of French animated features, continuing this week with a look at the releases in 2010 – with films by such diverse talents as Sylvain Chomet and once again, Luc Besson.
L’Illusionniste (The Illusionist), directed by Sylvain Chomet. 79 minutes. June 16, 2010.
In 1959, “Tatischeff”, an elderly stage magician, runs out of employment and moves to London, where he is considered too old-fashioned – the public wants lively rock bands today. He accepts lower and lower billing, and moves to an isolated Scottish isle after accepting a booking for a private house party from a rich Scotsman. On the Isle of Iona, he gains a young fan, Alice. As they move on to Edinburgh, Tatischeff cannot admit to Alice that he is a failure, and sells his own belongings to keep buying Alice gifts. Alice finally leaves him for a young man. Tatischeff moves on to leave them together, releases his magician’s rabbit into the wild, and is last seen on a train, apparently giving up his profession.
L’Illusionniste is developed from a 1956 unproduced film script by French comedian-actor-director Jacques Tati, that Tati gave up because he considered the story too melancholy. The character of Alice is believed to be based on Tati’s estranged daughter. First winner of the new César Award for Best Animated Film category.
A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures, directed by Ben Stassen. 88 minutes. August 4, 2010.
Originally announced by nWave Pictures as Around the World in 50 Years, with a strong ecological subplot. Sammy, an endangered green sea turtle, is born on a sandy Pacific island beach, escapes being eaten by sea gulls, and has adventures swimming all around the world, growing to adulthood during the next fifty years. He makes friends with Ray and Shelly, another boy and girl turtle, and is often separated from them and re-meeting them. Notable adventures include going to Antarctica and almost freezing, and searching with Shelly for a rumored “secret passage” between the Americas – the Panama Canal. At the end, the mature Sammy helps a newborn green turtle as he was fifty years ago.
Arthur 3: La Guerre des Deux Mondes (Arthur 3: The War of Two Worlds), directed by Luc Besson. 101 minutes. October 13, 2010.
This was released theatrically in Europe less than a year after Arthur 2. Arthur, Sélénia, and Bétamèche try to restore Arthur to human size by getting into his grandparents’ farmhouse through the pipes, and taking his toy train from his bedroom to his grandfather’s study to get a magic elixir. But Darkos, Maltazard’s son, is after them, and Maltazard has already stolen the elixir to create an army of giant soldiers. Arthur finds an alternate growth elixir in a queen bee’s Elixir of Life. Meanwhile, grandfather Archibald with more elixir persuades Darkos to switch sides, and enlarges him to human size. Arthur and Darkos distract Maltazard until Séléna and Bétamèche can shrink him back to Minamoy size. The U.S. Army defeats Maltazard’s leaderless troops, and Arthur’s family agrees to keep Maltazard a prisoner from now on. Nominated for the César Award for Best Animated Film.
Allez Raconte! (The Storytelling Show), directed by Jean-Christophe Roger. 77 minutes. October 20, 2010.
Father Laurent is such a good bedtime storyteller that his children, Pierre and Jeanne, enter him in a TV contest to find the best storyteller. The themes are the imagination, the future, riches, the French language, and more. Laurent has stiff competition from fathers all over the country, notably Hubert (a know-it-all), Momo (a musician), Jean-Pierre (who swears imaginatively), and Eric (a shameless liar and cheater). And what will happen to Laurent if he does win? A cartoon parody of overblown musical TV spectaculars, in 3D; the French adv’t called it “Délirant, Drôle, Décoiffant!” (Delirious, Amusing, Mind-Blowing). Nominated for an award at the 2010 Annecy International Animated Film Festival.
L’Apprenti Père Noël (Santa’s Apprentice), directed by Luc Vinciguerra. 80 minutes. November 24, 2010.
Santa Claus trains a young apprentice, a child orphan named Noël, to replace him when he retires. Noël has doubts that he can handle the massive job. This was a French-Australian co-production released in both countries; winner of the Unicef Award at the 2011 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. A 2013 sequel, L’Apprenti Père Noël et le Flocon Magique, was produced and released in France alone.
Une Vie de Chat (A Cat in Paris), directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli. 70 minutes. December 15, 2010.
Nico, a good-guy cat burglar in modern Paris, is often followed across the rooftops by a black cat whom he accepts as a good-luck charm. He learns that the cat belongs to Zoé, a young girl who cannot talk. Zoé’s mother Jeanne is a young police detective trying with her assistant Lucas to get evidence to arrest Vincent Costa, a crime lord, and his four-man comic-relief gang. Jeanne hires Claudine as Zoé’s nanny, not knowing that Claudine is really a spy for Costa. Claudine and Costa attempt to kidnap Zoé and frame Nico for everything, but he seizes Jeanne’s gun and forces her to see the truth. The climax involves a long chase across the Parisian rooftops to Notre Dame de Paris. The epilogue shows that Nico, Jeanne, and Zoé are a new family, and Zoé is talking again. Another international film festival favorite, nominated for the 2011 Oscar and César Awards; produced at Folimage, although not directed by Jacques-Remy Girerd.
Next week: 2011.
I still have my doubts about the ‘French’ part of this series of articles. In the past there have been a number of features produced in Belgium (Brussels, which has two official languages). In the case of Sammy’s Adventures it’s a Belgian movie with a straight up English soundtrack and a Flemish director. : yes, a lot of French people worked on the movie, but that does not make a French movie. The reason why it is called a Belgian/French production, is because of fiscal reasons (tax shelters).
A lot of Belgian animation studios that are Flemish, have offices in Brussels and Wallonia, just for tax purposesas well, because every part of Belgium has its own subsidising body and instead of asking for funds once, you can knock on three doors for funds from the state…. that’s even without the tax shelter from other countries.
For example: part of the new Asterix movie was done in Belgium by Grid, a studio in Ghent, in the Flemish part of Belgium. But that does not make Asterix en Belgian production, because its official producing studio is located in France. For tax shelter reasons, however, they might call it a French/Belgian production. However, outsourcing part of the production does not make it a Belgian movie,
I can make a case for movies produced in Belgium, but with an primary French soundtrack, like the Asterix movies produced by Belvision. But again: a movie made in Belgium with a primary English soundtrack and a Flemish director is way out of the scope of this series of articles. Sources even state that the French version as the dubbed version.
I did say at the beginning of this series that “French” means “French language”, whether produced in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, or Quebec. Features from all five have been included.
I think that all of the theatrical animated features made by Ben Stassen’s nWave Pictures in Brussels, Belgium (which has an office in Burbank, U.S.A.) have been designed for American/English sound tracks first, even though none of them have gotten American theatrical distribution and have ended up as direct-to-DVD children’s videos. Their theatrical distribution has been with French audio tracks in French-speaking Europe.
The closest any has come to American distribution is the 2013 “The House of Magic”, which is set in Boston with English-language signage. It even has a U.S. 5¢ coin, and it looks to me that the lip movement is designed for English-speaking voice actors. “The House of Magic” had an American theatrical trailer announcing a 2014 theatrical release, but it ended up sold to The Shout! Factory, which did give it a minimal American theatrical release as “Thunder and the House of Magic” and an On Demand TV release for about three months, and then dumped it on the DVD market. I’ll get to it when I cover the 2013 French-language movies.
I do see what the original writer of the comment was getting at, Fred, but we do have to remind ourselves how globally homogeneous the film world has become in recent decades. I do see this as a case of thinking too hard on the subject due to the way these were produced or who the intended audiences was meant to be. It’s no doubt nWave Pictures has it’s eye out of the rest of the world outside the francophone territories with their films.
(spoiler alert) A Cat in Paris begins with a little girl who is sad because her mother has no time for her because she is too involved with trying to find her husband’s killer. the story ends with the little girl HAPPY because her mother has no time for her because she is too involved with her new criminal boyfriend. incredibly bad story paired with clumsy inappropriate animation. I want my 70 minutes back. absolutely horrible. an unforgivable piece of trash.
I’m surprised that you didn’t mention that “The Illusionist” has a minor ‘cameo’ by Jacques Tati himself, when the title character is in a cinema that’s playing a classic Tati motion picture on the big screen!