Film review: Attila Marcel

Sylvain Chomet
Sylvain Chomet
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Previewing as part of the French Film Festival, Sylvian Chomet’s latest film ‘Attila Marcel’ is the director’s first foray into live action.

His previous works - most notably ‘The Triplets of Belleville’ and ‘The Illusionist’ - have all been animations painstakingly created over several years by a team of artists.

It must have come as something of a relief then to be dealing with the relative convenience of actors and cameras. But the change of genre has done nothing to stifle the director’s creativity and refusal to film anything remotely ‘ordinary’.

The story follows Paul (a masterful silent performance from Guillaume Gouix), a mute orphan who has grown up physically but retains a childlike mentality.

Paul lives with his two spinster aunts who are determined that he fulfils his promise as a pianist, all the while protecting the family secret - exactly how their pretty young sister and her wrestler husband (whose fighting name provides the film’s title) died.

When Attila accidentally enters the bizarre world of his downstairs neighbour Madame Proust (a mischievous Anne Le Ny) he opens a hallucinogenic connection with his childhood, reliving good and bad memories on his path to redemption.

Meanwhile, there’s the small matter of the attractive young cello player who seems to be interested in more than just a musical duet...

The film is an explosion of colour and song; a massively inventive tale set in a world of magic realism.

Incredibly, Chomet has managed to make it as animated as his animations - particularly when we venture into the mind of our young hero. In these often uproarious segments his memories are replayed in song and dance numbers reminiscent of the late great Dennis Potter.

Admittedly, the sheer level of whimsy on display may be too much for some, as bands of anthropomorphic frogs strike up songs and wrestling bouts morph into brutal tangos.

But for fans of Chomet’s previous work, French film in general and the films of fellow countryman Jean-Pierre Jeunet in particular, it is a treat.

With uniformly fine performances and a conclusion worthy of Roadl Dahl, ‘Attila Marcel’ deserves a large audience when it is released later this year.

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