I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of French animation, but from the tiny sample size, I can say that any new French animation coming down the pipe is not only sweatily anticipated but greedily devoured.
April and the Twisted World is one of the most original, daring pieces of animation you’ll see this year, or any. Here, amongst the corn rows and dollar hot-dogs of America, we are wholly impressed with animated films that are made for children, but “play well with adults.” Sure, we have our Pixars and we have our Disney Animations, grinding out big, beautiful, well-intentioned animated films, but these are still, quite honestly, films made for children. In France, and from what it seems, the rest of the world, animation isn’t a sandbox reserved for kiddies, but a sandbox aimed at adults just with far wider, far-reaching opportunities. April and the Twisted World is a film about an alternate history where the Napoleonic Empire never collapsed, science died, and the world never pulled itself out of the Steam Age. Cars are still driven by steam-engines, so are phonebooths, and the Eiffel Tower is a two-pronged monstrosity that features a steam-powered trolly to Berlin that only takes 86 hours. The film revolves around April (Marion Cotillard), the orphaned daughter of a family of scientists who strives to perfect her family’s legacy – The Ultimate Serum, a sort of Captain America super soldier injection that will bring France and the world back from the brink of economic destruction. When April is discovered by the police, a wide-ranging story of adventure and science gone awry is brought to the screen, and it is amazing. Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci have created a modern day Tin Tin, a film that somehow balances itself between a world of slapstick comedy, familial drama and big, bold science. April, and her talking cat Darwin, and their erstwhile companion Julius travel from the head of a statue to a strange underground jungle world of kidnapped scientists, each step of their journey introducing the viewer to some brilliant new aspect of the world they inhabit. When I say this film is aimed at adults, I don’t mean that’s it roughly populated with gore and full-frontal nudity, it just doesn’t pull its punches for a youthful audience. This is a hard world and the people within in it have adapted thusly. You won’t find anamorphic talking volcanoes or anything of the sort, but you will a beautiful tale about the wonder and power of discovery – both scientific and emotional – wrapped up amongst a beautiful world brought to the screen with every sooty detail intact.
Keep your eyes peeled in this film. Every scene is a beautiful landscape of hidden treasures.