Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Unbearable Lightness of Ernest & Celestine

     What kid wouldn’t enjoy an animated film? Yet, somewhere along the way, I lost touch with them. I was kind of hesitant when I watched Ernest and Celestine. 

     Would I get bored? Have these things lost their magic for me?

     I don’t remember when I saw my first cartoon film. Mary Poppins had some animation going on and I adored that movie. 

     My actual memories of cartoon and animated films begin in my mid twenties when I saw The Jungle Book with my husband when we were dating.

    The real pleasure began as my son entered the cartoon years and we both waded through huge amounts of Tom and Jerry and Daffy Duck and the romantic skunk among to name but a few out of innumerable other Disney offerings.

    In my mid-fifties now, my tastes in cinema seem to have undergone a sea change. In many ways I'm joyfully treading down the garden path to a second childhood.

    And then, along the way, I began to access the Alliance Francaise resources in a couple of the cities where we moved to, when my husband changed jobs. French animation is a whole new story!

     It is also with the French that I came to realise that the graphic novel for the adult exists.

     Nothing in the world of English comics and cartoon films prepared me for what the French offered! It was at once shocking, irreverent and exquisite. An explosion of the mind and senses.

     Ernest & Celestine will be an excellent way to enter the enchanted realm of French animated cinema. 

The Tale In a world where mice live underground, albeit in a world as charming as that of the hobbits, where a mouse’s greatest ambition must always be to scale the heights of a profession as dentist, where bears live above the ground and despise mice, fate throws together a certain defiant little mouse and a lazy and disreputable bear.

    While I was still trapped in Hollywood animation, we used to ooh and aah at the skill and realism of the animations -how almost real they have become! While it is true that art almost perfectly imitating life can often inspire awe, artistic representation fulfils many functions and the art of faithfully imitating the so-called real can rob it of its diverse and rich mechanisms and goals. 

    Ernest & Celestine is not simply all about the story. Your mouth will fall open, your eyes will pop out of your head at the sheer zen experience of the craft. 
There is one outstanding sequence with music and brush strokes - playful and exquisitely enchanting. 

Animating Ernest & Celestine from The Creators Project on Vimeo.

Based on the lovely children's books by Gabrielle Vincent, with a screenplay by noted novelist Daniel Pennac ("Cabot-Caboche"), this lively and larcenous tale is softened by its watercolor pastiche and minimalist animation. A magically understated mash-up, "Ernest & Celestine" has a comforting storybook effect and proves a refreshing departure in an age of high-tech, hyperkinetic animation set to soaring pop ballads, as entertaining as they can be. 
All over the world, throughout the ages, human beings have tussled with the Us and Them. What culture is without a story of love doomed because the lovers belonged to warring clans or something of the sort? 
"Ernest and Celestine" is the coziest movie you'll likely see all year. Every frame is suffused with a fireplace kind of warmth that, for me at least, cast an immediate spell that didn't let up. ... it's the overall integrity of the movie, directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, and Benjamin Rattar, adapting Belgian children's books by Gabrielle Vincent, that's key to its charm for children of all ages 
     Do beg for, buy or borrow the DVD to find out and to enjoy a most exquisite piece of animated cinema. 
   The story will hold you spellbound as it moves above and below ground, weaving its gentle wizardry over your blasé heart.

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