DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2010)

A delightful French female version of Indiana Jones.

Published on September 2, 2013

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2010)

Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Louise Bourgoin, Matheieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche
Cinematographer: Thierry Arbogast
Studio: Europa Corp./ Shout Factory SF 141 67 [8/13/13]
Video: 2.35:1 for 16:9 color
Audio: French or English DD 5.1
Subtitles: English
Region free
Extras: The Making Of…, Deleted scenes (of the two sisters), Music featurette
Length: 107 minutes
Rating: ****½ 

Great fun for just about all viewers (even for those who can’t stand subtitled films, because there’s also an English dubbed version if you must). Louise Bourgoin plays a sort of French female Indiana Jones in this extravagant adventure tale set in 1911 Paris, and almost as much fun as Luc Besson’s sci-fi classic The Fifth Element. This came out in Europe in 2010 and I don’t think has been distributed to any theaters here in Portland or I would have seen it. The magical power of filmmaking is expressed in this wild tale, but without the silly extremes, cliches and bad acting that American action fantasies such as the Mummy stuff are filled with. It’s altogether a fun romp.

The film is based on a series of comics by Jacques Tardi, but quite different from the many Marvel and other comics-based films coming out in the U.S. There are pterodactyls, mummies, whirlpools, big game hunters, Scottie dogs, fat detectives, almost-fatal tennis matches and gas lamps. Adele is an explorer and journalist trying to find a cure for her sister’s near-death condition, She heads for Egypt to bring back the mummy of Padmosis, said to have been the physician to Ramses II. She hopes her weird professor friend will be able to resurrect the dead. But while Adele is away, the professor uses his abilities to hatch a prehistoric pterodactyl egg in the museum and the flying dinosaur terrorizes Paris.

Another fly in the ointment is that when he’s finally revived, Padmosis turns out not to be the Pharoah’s doctor, but he knows who is, and that’s one of the mummies in the current exhibit of Ramsese II mummies at the Lovre, so they all go there and revive all the mummies. Padmosis the mummy in a 1911-style suit and hat is a kick. My favorite line in the film is afterwords when Ramses II and his attendants go out on the town (causing onlookers to faint) and he exclaims how beautiful the courtyard around the Lovre is. He says “We must build a pyramid here someday.”

The CGI of the pterodactyl is amazingly realistic, and in the pressure of solving the various crises, Adele tames the bird enough to mount it and fly around on it to save the day. Beeson cast her partly because of her talent for impersonation, and she plays several different roles attempting to get the professor out of prison to revive the Pharoah’s doctor so he can aid her sister. A couple of the actors are unrecognizable due to thick masks and makeup having been applied.  It might be advisable to watch the excellent “Making Of…” featurette first here, since it gives some background on the film, characters and story for those unfamiliar with it. There’s a lot of satire, humor and whimsy in the film. It is also available as a Blu-ray (which wasn’t provided us) but the DVD image quality is superb anyway. This follows on the heels of Tintin, which was based on a Belgian comic book series, but it was animated whereas Adele Blanc-Sec is live action. I understand Shout Factory censored some mild nudity in the film on this disc and plans to release a Director’s Cut later on. Un huh.

—John Sunier




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