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FILMS / REVIEWS France / Luxembourg

Review: The Summit of the Gods

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- Patrick Imbert signs a formidable adaptation of the manga by Jirô Taniguchi and Baku Yumemakura, intertwining a quest for the absolute of the extreme and a fascinating investigation

Review: The Summit of the Gods

"You can't stop others from doing what they want to do, even if it doesn't make sense, even if it's dangerous." At the highest altitudes, where oxygen is scarce in the freezing cold, in the heart of the steepest trapped slopes in the world, humans enter a survival zone where, paradoxically, the most passionate and reckless adventurers feel their lives vibrate completely in unison with the powers of nature. It is in this world of extraordinary initiates, of solitary mountaineers trying to push back their limits, with its codes, its challenges and its dramas, that Patrick Imbert's The Summit of the Gods [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
plunges, a film unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival's Cinema de la Plage, launched tomorrow in French cinemas by Wild Bunch and which demonstrates with striking mastery that an ambitious animated work (both in content and form) can perfectly reach all audiences without necessarily altering its subject matter to artificially adapt to the youngest spectators.

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In tackling the adaptation of the excellent cult manga by Japanese authors Jirô Taniguchi and Baku Yumemakura, Patrick Imbert (winner of the 2018 César for best animated film with his first feature The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales... [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), who wrote the screenplay with Magali Pouzol and Jean-Charles Ostoréro, was aiming very high, but in the image of the fierce will of the two protagonists of his film and after very long years of production (read the interview with the producers in 2016), the filmmaker has succeeded in his very audacious bet.

From Kathmandu to Tokyo, via the perilous ice wall of the Dalles des démons and the triptych of the great North faces of the Alps, in winter and alone (the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Grand Jorasses), up to the Grail of the 8849-metre Everest (via its most arduous south-western access), The Summit of the Gods follows in the footsteps of two obsessive characters: Fukamachi, a photojournalist with a love of the mountains, and Habu Jôji, a gifted mountaineer. At the bend of an alley in Nepal, the former thinks he recognises the latter, who disappeared completely from circulation a few years earlier. The thread that links them is a mystery that could revolutionise the history of the conquest of the roof of the world: what if Everest had been conquered in 1924 (and not in 1953) by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine? A small Kodak Vest Pocket could contain the proof, but it has to be found, and to do that, Fukamachi must track down Habu Jôji and also understand why he disappeared voluntarily.

By alternating the accounts of the two trajectories, the journalist's investigation and (in flashback) the decisive stages of the mountaineer's absolutist quest, before linking them in a breathtaking final section, the film weaves a captivating plot fed by the fascinating details of the daily life of these athletes, craftsmen of the extreme, who are the mountaineers of the highest altitudes. In this very physical immersion, mental overcoming and a form of imperious philosophical existentialism reign, confronted with the raw powers of nature in their pure beauty and their exacerbated dangers, which are spectacularly rendered by a magnificently worked 2D and an exceptional soundtrack (from silence to threatening rumbles). This set of qualities places The Summit of the Gods at the ideal crossroads for animation of artistic fibre, accessibility for all audiences and intelligent and demanding entertainment.

Produced by Julianne Films, Folivari and the Luxembourgers of Mélusine Productions, The Summit of the Gods was sold by Wild Bunch International to Netflix which will broadcast it on 30 November around the world except in France, Benelux, Japan, South Korea and China.

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(Translated from French by Manuela Lazic)

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