Reviews - The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec
The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec
Reviewed By John Stakes
Now into its 13th year Keswick Film Club kick started its autumn season with the latest oeuvre from French action director/screenwriter Luc Besson whose populist pedigree includes the Transporter series, Leon, Kiss of the Dragon and his best known The Fifth Element.
Starring former weather forecaster and celebrity gossip columnist Louise Bourgoin as the intrepid Nikita/ Tomb Raider/Barbarella/ Amelie type action heroine Adele, "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec" starts off as one of those high budget low brainer fun, thrills and spills flics which in less capable hands could have run out of steam long before Indiana Jones first cracks his whip. Besson has been accused of preferring high style over substance but Christopher Nolan fans would argue there is nothing wrong with that, and there is no doubting Besson's directorial panache in bringing Adele's fanciful escapades to deliciously preposterous life.
The year is 1911.The plot says little for the then current state of French medical practice. Taken from the 1970s comic book imagination of Jacques Tardi Adele's twin sister Agathe lies in a catatonic state following a tennis accident when she was impaled by Adele's giant hatpin. How can she be released from her living death? The only answer it seems is for our heroine to brave ancient Egyptian tombs and modern Egyptian lowlife to locate a mummified doctor, bring him to Paris in the hope that she can persuade nutty Professor Esperandieu to use his ancient skills to bring the doctor back to life, so that (wait for it) he can call upon his epoch old skills to revive her sister! A bit of a long-shot you might think but as the professor has already revealed his credentials by somehow mind nurturing a museum egg to life as a pterodactyl he'd obviously be a prime candidate for Dragon's Den!
Why does 52 years old and thrice married Besson prefer action movies in general and action heroines in particular? Before getting married Besson had considered himself a failure as his scuba diving parents had divorced, both had remarried and when only nineteen he'd so badly injured himself in a diving accident that his own action days came to an end. The combined love of photography and writing from sheer boredom steered him into the world of film and the desire to create excitement. His first wife Anne Parillaud took the title role in Nikita no less and he’s now the veteran of over forty films and has still found the time to father five girls by four women.
As the bonkers plot gathers pace Besson revealed his Gallic flair for the entertainingly absurd aided by some deft directorial flourishes. Several of the multitude of characters, in a triumph for the prosthetic make-up department, were barely distinguishable from the digitally created assortment of ancient mummified Egyptians. Bourgoin impressed with her sultry sexiness first seen in her 2008 "The Girl From Morocco" and few seductresses French or otherwise could make smoking in the bath so enticing. She managed to be at times feisty, funny, touching and sultry, whilst at the same time breaking in and riding her first pterodactyl: no mean feat. The rest of the cast luxuriated in their witty scripts whilst pulling their largely prosthetic faces into all manner of grimaces and overly acted contortions. Delicious!
Besson marshalled this escapist froth with real imaginative flair and pace to its inevitable climax and beyond. Critics may be quick to cast a dismissive eye but it takes real skill to come up with something fresh and invigorating in what is often an overindulged, formulaic and entirely predictable genre. This rounded blanc-sec with a fruity nose and hints of spice was infinitely preferable to many a martini whether shaken or stirred.
It can now be revealed that Adele lives on! Besson's film is intended to be the first of a trio starring our heroine who somehow manages to survive the sinking of the Titanic and WW1to resurface during the roaring twenties for many more adventures. In the meantime Adele made this reviewer forget the appalling weather outside (the first goal of any film surely?) and in penning this review the smile of enjoyment returns. Great fun and a cracking start to the new season.
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