APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD
APRIL AND THE TWISTED WORLD
(Avril et le Monde Truqué)
The animation as we start watching is flat and often minimalist. Not that this is a particular problem; it is just that the modern Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks film has elevated the bar to the point where we expect something very different so that it feels like we are taking a few steps back here. Character faces are limited in expressions, while much of the early scenes seem to be given over to the slapstick pratfalls of a troupe of slapstick gendarmerie. That said, any misgivings are silenced as soon as the film gets to 1931. The sense of a world or more so a living and choking alternate Paris is delivered with extraordinary texture and detailing. And then there is the magnificent vision of the overheard train line from Paris to Berlin amid a spectacularly staged sequence with various parties fighting around the outside of the massive gondola before it is blown up.
These initial scenes make the film seem like it is going to be a lightweight comic-book adventure in the light and fluffy vein of Adele Blanc-Sec or maybe a sex-reversed version of Tintin. Instead, we are plunged into a full-blooded alternate history in which most of Europe has not experienced any of the modern technological revolutions that came with gasoline and electricity and where, for once, we see quite accurately that this would have changed the shape of the modern world. (One should also keep watching right to the end where we get to see this world catching up with history and the delightful image of a Moon landing on a green Moon where the equivalent of Neil Armstrong is greeted by the cat).
The films design and detail from the massive statue where April makes her hideout to journeys to the fairground and Popss hideout are stunningly visual. A great part of the out and out enjoyment of the film is the wacky inventions and left field things that it keeps throwing in remote controlled rats, the plane that Pops gets working, the arrival at the secret lair and the revelation of the armour-suited lizards who are running everything, the launch of a plant-covered rocket in the climactic scenes. The most amusing of these inventions is the unveiling of Popss mobile house, which is capable of even becoming a submarine and a drilling machine, and the wonderfully nonchalant images of it making its way through the streets on legs or cruising down The Seine with its periscope up. The result amounts to one of the most outrightly enjoyable animated films one has sat through in some time.
(Screening Courtesy of Sparks Animation Festival)
Trailer here (no subtitles):-