April and the Extraordinary World: a clever, wild and modern adventure
by Claire La Combe
- The winner of the Crystal for Best Feature Film at Annecy is an original and highly successful creation, which animates the cartoonist’s world in a playful yet subtle way
A lone heroine, the backdrop of industrial Paris, a slightly idiotic and very stubborn police chief and mad scientists, all in an eco-pacifist adventure which makes light of key dates in history… There’s no doubt about it, we’re definitely dealing with Tardi here! More specifically, April and the Extraordinary World [+see also:
interview: Christian Desmares and Fran…
film profile] is an original creation by production company Je Suis Bien Content, directed by Franck Ekinci and Christian Desmares with graphics by Tardi. The film plunges us into an imaginary world in which the second industrial revolution – that which brought about electricity – never happened. Why? The most talented scientists around have been mysteriously disappearing since 1870, the year in which Napoleon III died in the explosion of a lab that was trying to crack the secret to making life serum. A world war breaks out over energy. In this world, stuck in the steam age, the scientists who are ‘left’, the least talented, are recruited by States for military research. In a grey and metallic Paris, April (voiced by Marion Cotillard) secretly continues with her family’s work on the life serum. As she tries to bring her old cat, Darwin (voiced by an inspired Philippe Katerine), back to life, she draws attention to herself, which brings trouble… what follows is an adventure that is half nerve-wracking and half ludicrous.
The ‘extraordinary world’ is meticulously portrayed with talent. Everything interlinks, slots together in a dark world, one we have come to expect from Tardi but which is also reminiscent of science fiction films. More countryside, a tiny amount more breathable air. In this, the settings and the light of the film are a true success. Then, when April’s plane flies over the sea, the only lull in the action, we are made to appreciate the beauty of the piece even more. The audience is made to enjoy every last imaginary-historic detail. Everything seems so plausible that it makes you want to know more about France under Napoleon V, although certainly not live through it.
Turning to the animation, this adds something even more mischievous to Tardi’s work. If April is Adèle Blanc-Sec, the police chief Pizzani is inspector Caponi and Posper (known as ‘Pops’) is Professor Ménard, they all have manga-like expressions. We can even see elements of Miyazaki in the rooftop chase involving Napoleon’s slightly idiotic policemen. Indeed the characters’ humour and the tone of the piece are befitting of these references. The film does not take its viewer for a child, and even less so a naive person. Each scene features its own well-timed comeback, or skilfully placed punch line.
The ‘villain’ behind the disappearances holds its own, and is bizarre but effective. April and the Extraordinary World is a Jules Verne-type adventure, which is modern, has universal appeal and is a bit moralistic and hippy-like.
The film is a French-speaking co-production (France, Belgium and Canada) and is being sold by StudioCanal.
(Translated from French)