Friday, 23 March 2012

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec
Director: Luc Besson
Released: 2010
Staring: Louise Bourgoin, Mathiew Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Nercessian, Philippe Nahon, Nicolas Giraud

Plot: Desperate to cure her near catatonic sister, intrepid authoress & adventurer Adèle Blanc-Sec (Bourgoin) returns from her latest expedition to locate a mummified doctor, for whom she is hoping that oddball Professor Espérandieu (Nercessian) will be able to use his unusual powers to bring the doctor back to life so he, in turn, can use his centuries-old skills on the unfortunate sister. However in Paris Espérandieu is already causing mayhem with his powers, having brought to life what was a safe museum egg but is now a very active pterodactyl. Paris 1911 may not be the healthiest place to be.

Review: Luc Besson is probably the first director whom I can say was my first director obsession, an obsession which began really when I was still in school with films like Leon, Atlantis, Nikita and The Big Blue all which fuelled this interest in his work, which only continued to grow with each of his films which I hunted down, while in many ways being largely responsible for my ongoing love of French cinema.

Still the problem with being a fan of Besson is that he’s a director who seemingly doesn’t like directing, especially when his total body of work totals 17 films as a director over the 31 years in which he has been active, which I know might not make him as work shy as some directors such as Terrence Malick, but is still frustrating as hell to his fans waiting on him to direct his next film, especially when he has such undeniable talent as a director which seemingly also stretches to writing and producing, seeing how he has busied himself between films by writing and producing the likes of “Taxi” and “District 13”, aswell as also keeping a healthy presence in Hollywood with the likes of “The Transporter” and “Kiss of The Dragon”.

Still it is always exciting to have a new Besson movie to watch and needless to say I was excited to see this newest offering, which is based on the popular French comic book series by Jacques Tardi but has seemingly yet to find the same popularity elsewhere, something which will hopfully change with the release of this film, which is based on the stories “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade”. Besson has openly admitted to be being a big fan of the series and as such is the perfect director, much like Guillermo Del Toro was to make “Hellboy”. Despite not being the most well known comic book characters, Adèle is an instantly likable creation and while she may seem like a mash up of “Amelie” and “Indiana Jones”, Adèle is actually a lot more to her character for not only is she a female adventurer, but also feisty and self assured, to the point were she refuses to resign herself to any of the traditional expectations of a lady in 1911 Paris, yet at the same time refuses to dress in any form of tom boy fashion as is traditionally expected from this kind of character, but rather looks every part the immaculately dressed well lady of class and dignity at all times, whether raiding tombs in Egypt or hunting down a rouge pterodactyl in Paris making here every bit the kind of heroine which Besson favours, especially with his films having a legacy of producing memorable and strong female characters and Adèle is no exception to this.

The driving force for Adèle though is the true heart of the story, for it is drawn from the guilt she feel for her sisters condition, who has been in a catatonic state, since a fiercely competitively game of tennis ended tragically thanks to a stray hat pin and ended up leaving her sister in her current condition, leading her on a series of adventures to try and find the cure, with her latest hope lying with the mummified doctor of Ramesses II and his mythical healing abilities. However it is also a guilt which she keeps a closely guarded secret and in many ways explains for her cold front which she put across in the public eye, especially when it comes to potential male suitors, unsurprisingly attracted to her ravishing good looks, which is an attribute that Bourgoin easily captures, much like her complete embodiment of the role as she is completely believable in the role and easily switches between the various forms Adèle takes over the film, from adventurer to socialite with Bourgoin effortlessly making each change, let alone the scenes which see her repeatedly trying to break Professor Espérandieu, via the use of a number of questionable disguises.

The rest of the cast are equally game with former Bond villain Amalric, unrecognisable under a mountain of heavy make up and prosthetic’s to play the films main villain Dieuleveult, while Lellouche is equally fun as the dim witted Inspector Caponi, whose attempts to have dinner are frequently interrupted by one of the films supernatural events, with the tone of the film generally being a fun one, with Besson much preferring to have fun with these characters than put any of them into any form of serious context, while a noticeable absence of tacked on romance is a refreshing choice, even though we still have hanger-on Andrej, who harbours a healthy affection for Adèle even if his feeling are unreciprocated.

Undeniably this is a very pretty film to look at much like the rest of Besson’s films, with the effort being put into the details with an especially heavy use of practical effects and sets, rather than a reliance on CGI, which is refreshing only used sporadically throughout and mainly for the more fantastical effects, which ultimately pays off, allowing the viewer to loose themselves in the fantasy, rather than being sharply knocked back into reality by the random appearances of cheap looking CGI effects.

Shot with blistering speed it’s a fun and action packed 107 minutes, with the lack of seriousness in the plot only making it all the more of an enjoyable ride, especially when Besson keeps managing to surprising the audience by some new fun avenue to explore or just from the simplest of moments such as Adèle’s cries of “In my Arms” every time she leaps into someone or celebrity big game hunter Justin de Saint-Hubert (Rouve) dressing up as a sheep to lure the rouge pterodactyl into his trap and it’s the kind of film which helps showcase to the doubters, many who have frowned on his more recent efforts, will find it very much a return to form for Besson. Unquestionably though this is one series I would love to see continued, as Adèle is far too much of a fun character to be restrained to just one movie, so hopefully Besson will continue the series and take us on another equally fun adventure.


  1. Holy crap, this film completely eluded me! I need to get my hands on it right away, I am a Luc Besson freak as well man, I love everything he does! Fifth Element?? Freaking sweet! The Professional? Awesome...I will be hunting this one down, thanks for the heads up Elwood!

  2. Yeah it kind of crept in under the radar of most people and it's a shame as it us a really great movie!

    Not sure why but originally I thought it was Audrey Tautou in the role of Adèle, who is another person with some hidden great movies such as "He Loves me, He Loves not". Still Louise Bourgoin is an actress I would love to see more of especially after seeing this film.

  3. I agree, I'd love to see more of this series. I loved the film and especially the period makeup. It reminded me of early silent films. Louise Bourgoin was great as Adele.

  4. Well the enthusiasm to make more is certainly with both Besson and Bourgoin and seeing how it was also produced by Besson's production company "Eurocorp" I guess it mainly rests on if they feel there is another of an audience to justify making it, but like you I'd love to see more of the same.


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