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April 07, 2011

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

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Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec
Luc Besson - 2010
M Pictures Region 3 DVD

Luc Besson has been so busy churning out screenplays and producing the films with great frequency, that even when not directing films like Taken or The Transporter and its sequels, his hand in those projects is unmistakable. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is Besson's most recent turn at doing the direction himself. As it currently stands, one of the few ways English speaking fans of Besson can see this film is by getting a Thai DVD that comes with both an English language track or in the original French with English subtitles.

After seeing the film, I can see why U.S. distributors, even those who have done well with Besson in the past, would shy away from this film. Even though, by most standards, the story is not as out and out nuts as Besson's screwball comedy disguised as a sci-fi extravaganza, The Fifth Element, your current stock of studio marketeers would be challenged by a film that takes place mostly in Paris of 1911, with a new born pterodactyl terrorizing the city, and a revived coterie of recently revived, French speaking mummies. The title character is adventurous and resourceful, but, perhaps keeping with her era, genteel compared to other Besson heroines.

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Adele Blanc-Sec is a journalist famous for her world wide travels. An assignment to Peru is turned by her into an Egyptian journey to find the tomb of a pharaoh's doctor. Adele believes that an aged scientist would have the ability to bring the mummified doctor back to life, with a cure for Adele's sister. The sister has been in a semi-conscious state for five years following a disastrous fall on a very long hat pin that pierce her entire scull in the course of a tennis match with Adele. And, yes, describing some basic plot elements may cause some to slap their foreheads in disbelief, but considering more beloved films from Luc Besson, it's no less nutty than the story of a professional hit man who adopts an orphan girl.

I'm not familiar with the graphic novels by Jacques Tardi, but Besson's version of Adele Blanc-Sec, in the person of Louise Bourgoin, is certainly pretty, and more fashionably dressed. Many of the cast members look cartoonish, resembling the ensembles that populate the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, especially Amelie. As the aged scientist with a psychic connection to the pterodactyl, Jacky Nercessian resembles Dustin Hoffman as the extremely old Jack Crabb in Little Big Man. Behind sunglasses, sharp facial feature, and even sharper teeth, Mathieu Amalric is almost unrecognizable as Adele's nemesis.

This isn't quite a distaff version of Indiana Jones. Except for the beginning of the film with Adele and the Egyptian tomb raiders, and the finale with reanimated mummies in the Louvre, this is a much more relaxed film that might be expected from Besson. There are several playful moments with earnest, if inept policemen disguised as sheep, a line mentioning that the courtyard for the Louvre would be a great location for a pyramid, and one sight gag involving a mishap with a guillotine. This may not be among Besson's best films, but it is certainly entertaining. Some who are fluent in French may quibble with Louise Bourgoin's acting abilities, but certain judgments are given a rest by the sight of her full lipped smile and her enthusiastic flight on the back of the pterodactyl.

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Posted by peter at April 7, 2011 08:50 AM