As a card-carrying Francophile and Philogynist, who frequently kvetches about the dearth of strong female leads in genre flicks, you’d think a film described by one critic as “Amélie meets Indiana Jones” would be right up my ruelle… so when I bought a shiny new copy of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010), I assumed it would be love-at-first-watch… but, on reflection, I think the two of us should just be friends.
For those who don’t know, this French science-fantasy comic book caper, adapted and directed by Luc Besson, stars Louise Bourgoin as the eponymous adventuress, who is on a mission to revive her comatose sister (Laure de Clermont), by any means necessary… which, in this rather bizarre case, involves “borrowing” a mummified Egyptian physician from his tomb, and then springing a telepathic Professor (with the power to resurrect the dead) from his jail cell, where he awaits execution for a murder spree perpetuated by a pterosaur under his control!
Bourgoin makes for a very appealing lead, and she certainly throws herself into the various disguises that Adèle adopts throughout the story, but in a supplementary interview she raves about the very qualities that turned me off her character: She’s an amoral misanthrope, who doesn’t seem to care about anyone but herself… and even her supposed concern for her sister could be viewed as a symptom of her own culpability, rather than any genuine affection for the woman. Of course, I dislike Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones for much the same reason and they’re hugely popular heroes, so I accept that this is a largely subjective matter… especially since Besson apparently “softened” the beloved, best-selling heroine while escorting her to the big screen! While I enjoyed the movie’s macabre humour, and the way it revels in oddness for its sake, I found the supporting characters a little too cartoon-ish and off-putting… the fact that so many cast members were required to wear prosthetic noses and ears to make them more closely resemble their comic counterparts probably doesn’t help. All my petty complaints aside though, there were plenty of solid laughs to be had here, and the cliff-hanger ending ably succeeded in whetting my appetite for a sequel.
Note: I assumed the “Amélie” comparison simply referred to the fact that the movie was set in Paris and had a pretty brunette in the lead, but it goes a little deeper than that… the opening scene’s narration, and the overall tone and aesthetic of the piece do come off as overtly Jeunet-esque… or, more accurately, Jeunet-lite.
As for the DVD extras, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a featurette about the original books, to put them into context for us non-Frenchies… there are a few panels of artwork included in “Le Making Of”, but they were never really onscreen long enough to fully appreciate them. The cast and crew seemed very reverential of the comic’s creator, Jacques Tardi, but there was no attempt to explain who he was for an uninitiated audience. However, I did enjoy the English-language interview with Besson included on the disc, and was inspired by his professed cultural patriotism. I’m no expert on the man’s career, or the operations of his production company, but I admire the way he talked about working to expand studio facilities in his home-country and support younger film-makers. As a Brit I can’t help feeling that our best and brightest talents are frequently siphoned off by Hollywood, to the detriment of our own culture.