Directed by Luc Bresson
Written by Luc Bresson, from the comic books by Jacques Tardi
Starring Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Philippe Nahon, Jacky Nercessian. Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
American films are filled with comic book movies these days, but one of the best of the past five years was a movie out of France that manages to be charming in every way.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec was adapted by Luc Bresson from a comic book series out of France set in the early years of the 20th century and featuring Adele, sort of a female Indiana Jones. The movie adapts two stories into one.
The movie begins in Paris with the mysterious hatching of of an ancient pterodactyl egg, cause by the psychic meddling of Professor Esperandiue (Jacky Nahon). The best of the Paris police force goes to investigate, led by Inspector Caponi (Gilles Lellouche). And the authorities want to call on Adele Blanc-Sec* (Louise Bourgoin), but she is in Peru at the time.
But she’s not. She’s in Egypt, digging to find the tomb of Ramses II, and evading her archnemesis Dieuleveult (Mathieu Amalric) in order to bring a mummy back to France. Adele returns and gets involved in the hunt for the pterodactyl, while using the mummy as a way to help cure her sister Agatha (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre), who has a hatpin in her brain.
As you may have gathered, the film had a light tone and goofy charm. Director Luc Bresson is best known in the US for The Fifth Element and this has the same sort of visual charm that never takes itself too seriously. Louise Bourgoin has the perfect attitude for her adventuress character: capable, charming, but with enough depth to make her more than just two-dimensional. The casting is a major asset; all the characters have memorable non-Hollywood faces that helps to give them personality.
One thing I especially liked was that the film had the feel of a comic book adventure. It does not actually end, with a new adventure being set up. I don’t think one was ever planned, but it gave the impression of a comic book that doesn’t just end.
The movie was very successful in France, but not in the US. Of course, being subtitled hurt it, but I don’t think many American moviegoers these days want comic book films that are light hearted (or without fight scenes, and where the archenemy is not defeated in the end).
It’s on Netflix. And, really, how could you resist a movie that had pterodactyls and mummies?
* Her last name translates into “dry white” as in wine.