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Film Review: ‘April and the Extraordinary World’

April-and-the-Extraordinary-WorldIn the heart of Paris, a repurposed monastery known as the Musee des Arts et Metiers serves as a technological shrine to human innovation, where school kids marvel at all manner of inventions, from Foucault’s pendulum to the first robots and computers. Now think how different that museum’s treasures might be had all the world’s best scientists disappeared from the face of the earth at the turn of the previous century, leaving Paris mired in the Age of Steam.

That’s the alternate reality that graphic novelist Jacques Tardi imagined in “April and the Extraordinary World,” which has now inspired a dynamic animated scifi adventure that delivers on the lofty, retro-styled promise of “Tomorrowland”-or more aptly, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”- in a way that stimulates the intellect of all who watch. The visually striking, hand-drawn toon should fare great in France, where it opens Oct. 14, with GKids releasing early next year in the US.

Known in French as “Avril et le monde truque,” the film’s tricky title has already been translated several ways-as “April and the Twisted World,” or “A Rigged World”-and could conceivably change again before reaching theaters. Which begs the question: How best to christen a film whose downbeat reality never advanced past the Industrial Revolution without undermining its imagination-tickling dimension of hope and possibility? Tardi’s alternate vision of Paris, starkly brought to life by co directors Christian Desmares et Franck Ekinci, appears choked by a heavy cloud of coal smog, many of its most famous landmarks repurposed to serve the bleak world order-one in which nearly all the great thinkers have mysteriously vanished, forcing society to rely on outdated science and inventions.

The toon reveals the moment when human progress changed for the worse in its opening scene, as Napoleon III dies not in exile but in a peculiar mad-scientist mishap. Per Tardi’s premise, the emperor was toying with the laws of science long before Hitler, employing an otherwise responsible brainiac named Gustave (the great Jean Rochefort) to develop an army of invincible soldiers. Gustave’s experiments were a bust, but his serum did yield an even more intriguing side effect: His test animals gained the ability to speak.— Reuters

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This article was published on 06/07/2015