Avril et le monde truqué
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DIRECTED BY: Christian Desmares,
FEATURING THE VOICES OF: Marion Cotillard, Philippe Katerine, Marc-André Grondin, Jean Rochefort, Bouli Lanners (French); Angela Galuppo, Tony Hale, Tod Fennell, Tony Robinow, Paul Giamatti (English dub)
PLOT: In 1941, during the reign of French emperor Napoleon V, the world’s scientists have vanished, technology has not progressed for the past six decades, and the environment has been devastated by war, coal consumption, and rampant deforestation. The French Empire hunts the remaining scientists, hoping to enlist them to work on the government’s behalf. After April’s parents are kidnapped by a mysterious electric cloud, the precocious girl teams up with her grandfather, a petty thief with divided loyalties, and her talking cat Darwin to track them down, and possibly find a solution to all that ails the planet.
- Nominated for the César for Best Animated Feature; it lost to The Little Prince.
- The most literal translation of “truqué” in the film’s French title is “rigged” or “fake.” The film’s English subtitles translate the title as April and the Twisted World.
- An alternate history, the film’s point of divergence is the death of Napoleon III, who in our timeline lived to instigate the disastrous Franco-Prussian War. His prosecution of the war was such a failure that he was captured by the enemy, and his subsequent rule inspired fierce opposition, ending his hopes of founding a dynasty.
- Among the scientists whose disappearance has arrested the technological progress of this alternate world are Édouard Branly, Albert Einstein, Heinrich Hertz, Guglielmo Marconi, Alfred Nobel, Louis Pasteur, Enrico Fermi, and Sergei Korolev. Also, that may be penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming giving a large sentient Komodo dragon a massage.
- The film’s drawing style is modeled after cartoonist Jacques Tardi, who is credited as the creator of the “graphic universe” and gets a shout-out in the credits under an image of a pterodactyl.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Nothing can quite compare with the first sight of a pair of Eiffel Towers looming over the Paris skyline, eventually revealing themselves as the central station for a fire-powered continental tramway that looms over the coal-stained cityscape. The image is so iconic that it figures prominently in the story, captured in April’s beloved snowglobe and playing a role in the film’s climax.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Ambulatory meta-mansion, spore rocket
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: The film’s individual elements—setting, story, design—are each slightly off-kilter on their own. But combined, they add up to a unified vision of strangeness. With each plot development, the film manages to elevate the already bizarre circumstances to even greater heights.
English-language trailer for April and the Extraordinary World
COMMENTS: Say the word “steampunk” and your first thoughts Continue reading 21*. APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD (2015)