Top 5 Films from French Comics
June 27, 2012
Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin is based on the beloved comic-book series about the French-speaking boy reporter by the Belgian artist Georges Remi, known as Hergé. But France didn’t wait for Hollywood to adapt popular French-language comics—here’s a brief selection of the best.
Barbarella Roger Vadim, 1968
In the 41st century, the provocative Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is sent by the president of Earth to find an evil scientist, inventor of a deadly weapon. Her quest takes her to the icy planet Tau Ceti, where she faces deadly traps and enemies obsessed with tearing off her clothes, but also encounters love and sex. Directed by Roger Vadim, this very controversial movie was based on Jean-Claude Forest’s work of the same name, one of the first so-called “adult comic strips”. Mixing psychedelic effects and soft erotica, Barbarella appeared on the screens a few months after the student uprisings of May 1968 but didn’t acquire its cult status until a few years later. Now it is a must-see for all lovers of cheesy plots, goofy dialogue and foxy ladies.
Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre Alain Chabat, 2002
Mission Cléopâtre was not the first in the Astérix film series, but it remains to date the best of them all. Directed by Alain Chabat—who also plays Julius Caesar—this second Asterix adventure takes the little hero (Christian Clavier) and the big hero Obélix (Gérard Depardieu) to Egypt, in order to help Queen Cleopatra (the gorgeous Monica Bellucci) complete the construction of her palace on time. Thanks to a magic potion, the Gauls are able to prevail once more over the Romans. Capturing the essence of the legendary and much loved comicbook series by writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo, Mission Cléopâtre re-creates the fanciful atmosphere of the Astérix albums, with countless gags and puns. Just make sure you’re watching the original French version, and not the Miramax edit.
Immortel, Ad Vitam (Immortal, Ad Vitam) Enki Bilal, 2004
A fascinating sci-fi movie, Immortel (Ad Vitam) is also a good way to enter into author Enki Bilal’s weird universe for the first time. Set in New York in the year 2095, the movie presents a bleak vision of the future, including fallen Egyptian gods, a blue-haired mutant (the former Miss France, Linda Hardy), various forms of genetic mutations and a growing political resistance to the rising dictatorship. True to his original works (especially the masterpiece Nikopol Trilogy), with this film Bilal delivers a rare graphic experience, combining computer-generated imagery, dreamlike landscapes and artful symbolism. Inspired by the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, this dark futuristic tale is unlike any other movie, just as Bilal’s graphic novels are unique in the comics world.
Largo Winch Jérôme Salle, 2008
Playboy and billionaire Largo Winch (Tomer Sisley) is kind of a Batman without his cave, but his adventures are equally exhilarating. Secret adoptive son of tycoon Nerio Winch, cocky Largo inherits his father’s fortune and the powerful W Group after his mysterious death. Has Nerio been murdered? Is there a traitor in the company’s ranks? Facing a hostile takeover bid, Largo must overcome multiple obstacles to save his financial empire. Fast-paced, action-packed and set in various exotic locations, Largo Winch is one of the best thrillers made in France in the last several years. Kudos for that go to the author of the original comicbook series, the Belgian Jean Van Hamme (also the creator of XIII and Thorgal). The sequel is equally worthwhile, at least for Sharon Stone.
Les Beaux Gosses (The French Kissers) Riad Sattouf, 2009
Nerdy and far from the cool crowd, 14-year-old Hervé (Vincent Lacoste) has a hard time dealing with high school bullies, wild acne, braces and fantasies about girls. But to his great surprise he discovers that he’s caught the eye of the popular (and equally hormone-fueled) Aurore. His best friend Camel convinces him to make a play for her—will he succeed? Loosely adapted from director Riad Sattouf’s own comic classic Retour au Collège, this flat-out hilarious comedy has been compared to the teenage flicks American Pie and Superbad. But it shines mostly thanks to a lingering sense of innocence topped with a nostalgic, though sometimes bitter, look back at high-school years—qualities that earned this coming-of-age classic a César for Best First Film.
Tied for Sixth:
Tintin et le Mystère de la Toison d’Or (Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece) Jean-Jacques Vierne, 1961
Michel Vaillant (Need for Speed) Louis-Pascal Couvelaire, 2003
Blueberry (Renegade) Jan Kounen, 2004
Les Chevaliers du Ciel (Sky Fighters) Gérard Pirès, 2005
Lucky Luke James Huth, 2009
Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec) Luc Besson, 2010
Originally published in the May 2012 issue of France Today
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