Directed by Jean-François Laguionie
Written by Jean-François Laguionie, Anik Leray
Voices by Jessica Monceau, Adrien Larmande, Thierry Jahn, Julien Bouanich, Céline Ronte, Thomas Sagols, Magali Rosenzweig, Chloé Berthier
In America, animated films are for children. Yes, they do entertain adults,* but the perception is that adults go to them in order to bring their kids. It’s different in Europe, where animated films are not pigeonholed, and a movie like The Painting can be made.
As the title states, the movie is about a painting. Much like Toy Story, the people in it have come to life, and have created their own society, with three levels: the Alldunns, who are finished and who think themselves superior, the Halfies, who are not quite complete, and the Sketchies, who are just rough drawings and at the bottom of the social barrel.**
Ramo (Adrian Larmande) is an Alldunn in love with Claire (Chloé Berthier), a Halfie. Lola (Jessica Monceau) is a friend of Clare who suggest they go to seek the artist and ask him to finish the painting. Joined by Plume (Thierry Jahn), a Sketchie, they go on a journey of discovery and find out that they can leave the painting and visit others in the abandoned studio of the artist in order to find him.
The film, as it must be, is visually sumptuous, filled with color and delight. Laguionie pays homage to some of the great artists, using their style as templates for some of the artwork visited. There’s a war scene, a visit to Venice during Carnivale, and many other delights in the search. It even has a message, not only the obviously against social snobbery, but more about art and life.
Of course, the film was barely released in the US.*** Part of this was the subtitling: American’s don’t like subtitles, and there probably wasn’t enough interest to have it dubbed. But a bigger reason no doubt was one of the characters – a painting of a Rubenesque nude who gives the group guidance and a gateway. American audiences no doubt would be outraged by this in a “children’s movie”**** and cutting out the scenes would wreck the plot. So the film only got very limited release.
It’s available on Netflix, though, and is a delight for fans of animation.
*Chuck Jones, America’s greatest cartoon genius, said he made all his films for himself.
**American translation. The French words are “Toupins,” “Pafinis” (roughly “not finished”) and “Reufs” (“Roughs”). Much more imagination.
***Luckily, it was a success in France.
****Some – very loud Americans – are even more Victorian about sex than the Victorians, who accepted nudity in art.