Thursday Aug 16, 2007

Ratatouille

Last week I saw the new Pixar/Disney animation Ratatouille in French. I was a bit reluctant going in as I like to see a film in the original version. As it turned out this cartoon worked perfectly in French, as it takes place in a beautifully rendered Paris. As I came out of the film I could think of no other way to describe it than as a masterpiece.

It is the story of a genius rat who dreams of cooking great dishes, following the advice of his hero chef whose motto is "Everyone can cook". After a near death experience in the house of a granny as he glimpses the news of the recent suicide of his hero after the vicious attack of a soulless critic makes him loose a couple of stars in the famous Michelin Guide - this really happened btw - he ends up unexpectedly in Paris in front of the restaurant of his recently deceased chef...

I don't want to say more than this, other than "go and see it". The recent reverse takeover by Pixar of Disney (a Steve Jobs signature move), has clearly breathed some amazingly fresh air in that old institution. This must be the first Disney Movie in decades that reaches the heights of creativity of the founding father. The characters are beautifully drawn and close to life. The story is clever at every level. I am told that a huge amount of research went into the cooking scenes of the great restaurant: it certainly shows. There is a new intellectual vigor for a Disney movie. And the message behind it is not schmalzy but deep. As the critic says at the end of the film: everyone can be a cook, that is true, even if not everyone will have a talent for it - but talent and genius can spring from anywhere.

This film has probably done more than any head of state could ever do for improving Franco American relations.

Monday Jul 23, 2007

Persepolis

Persepolis is a an animated version of the 4 volume graphic novel of the same name covering the life of a young Iranian girl. I found it yesterday evening hanging around my parents house, and finished reading in the early morning hours. As the film was playing tonight in Fontainebleau, I immediately ran out to see it. It is a shorter but extremely beautiful version of the graphic novel, and very clearly deserves the Grand Prix at this year's Cannes film festival.

Persepolis is an autobiography of an Iranian girl, Marjane Satrapi, as she grows up in a liberal family in the 1970ies and 1980ies. It is both a bildungsroman, and a fascinating recent history of Iran. It shows her witnessing as a child the fall of the Shah, the short period of hope and freedom before the process was taken over by the Islamic Revolution, which brought in purges and the brutal war with Irak which cost over a million lives. To save her from herself, her well off parents manage to send her to Austria to finish her education at a French college there... I won't reveal more about the harsh reality and deep beauty of the plot. One thing is clear. This is a seriously beautiful and intelligent cartoon that will turn any skeptic of this art form mum.

Watch the movie if you can, but otherwise read the novel. They compliment each other nicely. The novel goes into a lot more detail than the film has time for, and those details are really worth it.

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Tuesday Jun 19, 2007

Paprika

Today I saw the most amazingly original film I have seen in a long time, certainly the most original cartoon: Paprika, a Japanese anime that goes so far beyond what I ever imagined could be the limits of the genre. Astounding. A daring science fiction trip into the psychology of dreams. It is less realistic and humane that Wim Wenders classic Until the End of the World which also deals with dream machines, but as a cartoon it beats most records of weirdness, and I have seen a few, such as Naked Lunch or Being John Malkovich or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Very much worth watching, if you feel in control enough to rock your psychological boat.

A film that can easily be seen twice.

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