Dear friends, fans, phans, theatre people, and other fabulous people (or chickens),
Allow me to show you a picture.
I can hear your gasps now--what is this phenomenon? Surely they are not making Phantom of the Opera into--of all things--an animated movie?
Alas, the answer is no. For better or worse, we're stuck with Karimloo as the best Phantom for now. Oh well. Yet I still beg your attention for this great little film. Un Monstre à Paris is one of the best non-Barbie, non-Disney animated films I've ever seen. Which actually isn't that many. I guess that makes this one even more valuable, right?
A Monster in Paris, to use the English title, is a French animated movie from 2011, with Vanessa Paradis and Matthieu Chedid (Sean Lennon in English) voicing the roles of Lucille and Francoeur, respectively. It is seriously underrated. I heard of it from a Youtube playlist, of all places. This is ridiculous. I should have had people clamoring from all sides for me to see this musical/movie. Since a sad lack of popularity seems to be its fate, I believe perhaps a brief summary is in order.
A musical genius is shunned and mocked and hunted in society through no fault of his own in 1910.
He finds his way into the dressing room of a young singer with brown curly hair who wears a lot of white. She is often referred to as an 'angel.' At first she is frightened of him, but when she hears his beautiful voice she overcomes her fear and grows to have affection for him, even singing with him on stage (he wears a white mask to hide himself).
Meanwhile a young man named Raoul is trying to renew his childhood friendship with the singer, though he is interested in a bit more than friendship at this point.
|Raoul and his infamous straw coat|
Lucille is kept busy hiding her genius alternately from the bumbling proprietor and prominent guests of the cabaret, Mme. Carlotta, and two gentlemen, one tall and one short.
Eventually a citywide hunt for the 'monster' begins, and he disappears seemingly without a trace (actually there's more, but you'll have to watch it for that).
I don't know about you, but I've never heard anything quite like that before.
So maybe it borrows liberally and unashamedly from Leroux's novel, but this lovely film relies on more than stealing from Gaston Leroux and Andrew Lloyd Webber--it's got plenty of fun elements of its own, in *both* languages.
First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the songs. "La Seine" is the most prominent (I suspect because it gets stuck in everyone's head the most). As noted, it's catchy and fun. I don't care for the English version so much--I have a hard time telling Lucille and Fracoeur's voices apart, but both versions are still lovely. If you look up a translation of the French words, Fracoeur's verse is actually addressed to Lucille. I found this adorable. There are a few other songs, but the title song "A Monster in Paris"--Francoeur's heartbroken solo song--is the one that stands out the most. As a musical theatre fan, I love movie musicals. Ones that don't have to be previewed/edited are even better. As a sensible person and a six year old at heart, I appreciate the fact that there aren't *too* many songs. This movie has the movie/music balance just about right.
Another awesome element to this movie is that it is a French film. I'm a studious student of French. I need French stuff. My sister is a French student. She needs French stuff. My other siblings are bored. They need French stuff (all right, maybe we did watch it in English. Whatever). The fact remains, however, that it's a great opportunity to study another language/culture through a familiar, non-boring medium. My younger brother has picked up part of the chorus of "La Seine" ("Je ne sais, ne sais, ne sais pas pourquoi") from hearing the song in French and English. I often use those phrases in conversation, and he was able to pick up and apply a bit of a language that he isn't officially learning yet. Yay for multilingual experiences.
The biggest reason this movie is so great, though, is that it's just plain fun. Sure, it contains elements from a dark-ish story, but it still stays mostly lighthearted and doesn't take itself too seriously. The characters are great
|Emile and Maud, the adorable subplot that I forgot to mention|
--how can you not love a guy who names his delivery truck Catherine?
--and while the story's often funny, it has its 'feelsy' moments too. Lucille is the queen of sass. Emile and Maud are absolutely adorably awkward. And Francoeur...well. Let's just say you have never been as attached to a flea, nor are you ever likely to again. I like Francoeur. Francoeur is cool.
Plus, there's actually a happy ending, which is more than I can say for the source material.
While it is a kids' movie, I think a paraphrase of Lewis is suitable here--if you won't watch a movie when you're all grown up and in high school, you shouldn't watch it when you're ten. Which basically means that big kids can do little things too.Or something.
In short, this is a great little film. It's not Frozen, and it's not Phantom, but it combines elements of both into an hour and thirty minutes of enjoyment. To quote AVPM, it's 'totally awesome.'
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go seek out Lucille cosplays. I know they're out there somewhere...
(I am not allowed to use deliberative oratory in the review for class, but no one said anything about here. Guys, this movie needs attention. Go watch it. Make your siblings watch it. Spread the madness!)