Today we’ll be starting the reviews for Animated Anarchy & Annecy week by looking at the major Triple AAA films of the festival. April and the Extraordinary World is the “Cristal” or “Best Feature Film” winner of the festival, beating out seven other nominees in the category. Touted as the newest film from the producers and animation studio behind Persepolis, April and the Extraordinary World looks to be apart of the great slate of French animated films this year along with The Little Prince, Adama, and Mune.
If the image shown below gets you excited for imaginative machinery and whimsical storytelling, read Maciek’s synopsis and overall review for the story!
April and the Extraordinary World (April et le Monde Trouqé, Directed by Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci)
– a movie co-created by comic book author Jacques Tardi, who some of you might know as the author of “Adele Blanc-Sec.” The story is set in alternative universe where all of the scientists and inventors – including Albert Einstein, Alfred Nobel and Blaise Pascal – have mysteriously vanished, as France has become a sinister empire ruling the globe. Science is prohibited, leaving the world to be trapped in a steampunk setting.
Our main heroine April, the daughter of two of the missing scientists, is hiding from the government while trying to finish her parents’ Magnum Opus – a serum that cures all of the illnesses and basically makes you immortal. She is accompanied by a talking cat named Darwin (one of her father’s experiments) and is soon joined by a young pickpocket. The trio is constantly on the run while unveiling one mystery after another…
The story has the spirit of Franco-Belgium comics written all over it. It’s in a similar vein to “Tintin” or (less known in America) “Spirou and Fantasio” with characters jumping from one adventure to another, figuring out clues as they go along. In fact there is a goofy, down-on-his-luck policeman who’s obsessively trying to hunt down April who appears to be a cross between Thompson and Thomson from Tintin and Javert from “Les Miserables.” The script takes enough time to give characters some proper depth and development as well as some great comedy moments. The adventure and concepts of the world are pretty creative, and near the end it also made me think of Miyazaki’s “Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind”.
While the movie is incredibly fun, the only problem I can think of is a twist near the last third. Without getting too much into it, the movie reveals who the real villains are and… well, while I think it was set up in a clever way (you don’t see it coming yet the clues were in front of you) and it lead to some great comedic moments, it can be way too silly for some viewers. I did like it, though I can see why it would turn some people off. It basically changes the story from a more traditional steampunk film to B-science fiction movie, and while I think that part it done well, it takes the story in a very bizarre direction. There is also one more twist, which I think was pretty ingenious storytelling, but I won’t give too much away. Let’s just say the script has one of best red herrings I’ve seen in a long, long time.
Over all, the film is a very fun, enjoyable ride and in fact won the Cristal Award (Best Feature Film). BIG RECOMMENDATION!
April combines two of my favorites elements of European cinema, focusing on the thrill of adventure and rich character development. I’m hoping this film can blow me away similar to The Adventures of Tintin, which was one of my favorite movies of 2011 thanks to the set pieces and performances. Just imagine what this could be like if you combined the emotional pierce of The Illusionist with genre action.
There is no trailer available yet for April and the Extraordinary World. Although you can find several pictures relating to the film thanks to various cartoon blogs. The best source for images comes from the official announcement of the film’s English distributor, GKIDS. GKIDS focuses on distributing animated foreign films to English audiences and is responsible for introducing us to Academy Award Nominated movies such as The Secret of Kells, Chico and Rita, Ernest and Celestine, and the upcoming When Marnie Was There.
This film has such a unique, outstanding pedigree that I can’t wait to see it when it becomes available in the states. Many of the past winners of Annecy’s Best Feature Winners are deserved but it will surprise you to find out how many festival winners are films you would have never heard of. The few winners American audiences would be familiar with are James and the Giant Peach, Coraline, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Even by small chance the film fails to meet expectations, it will remain a mystifying, creative wonder for the eyes.
We’re starting off with the runaway hit of the festival for AAA week! What will come next? Find out tomorrow!