Category Archives: Europe

Movie Review: ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a very big deal–and deservedly so! It exceeds the expectations of the most diehard fan with a heady mix of style and substance. I am so happy to have seen it and I would gladly go see it again and again. I was hoping for something special. I went in with thoughts that this could be a like a French Star Wars, perhaps divided by Star Trek, and then multiplied by Doctor Who. Something really special–and that it is!

My concern was that there might be some culture clash for some viewers: American tastes at odds with this Euro-movie based upon a Euro-comic book series. But, I conclude, that really is such a non-issue. There is a decidedly offbeat sensibility going on with this movie but isn’t that what we all love about the Star Wars franchise, along with other loopy and irreverent entertainment?

Another worry was that I had heard that this movie was too dependent upon CGI. Well, ahem, there’s nothing wrong with CGI when it works. Just think of “Avatar.” Much like “Avatar,” the CGI in “Valerian” is simply an integral part of the experience. There are so many iconic moments in this movie that are all about the CGI. For instance, the wonderfully elaborate sequence with Valerian (Dane DeHaan) running through a multitude of dimensions. Or Laureline (Cara Delevingne) arguing with some very dim servant creatures. Or, one of my favorite moments, Bubble (Rihanna) and her beautiful dance sequences.

Dane DeHaan, Luc Besson. and Cara Delevingne

There’s a very intriguing thing going on with the dynamic between Valerian and Laureline. The two are lovers but they have a lot of work ahead of them. They are intentionally distant in how they interact with each other, in an other-worldly comic book way. This disconnection between the two lovers leaves the viewer wondering about them. When Valerian repeatedly tells Laureline that he wants to marry her, it comes across as highly ironic. It would be wrong to dismiss the acting as wooden. It is part of what director Luc Besson intentionally wants. It is part of what the script aims for. I think some critics have unfairly expected more natural performances and gleefully found fault where there is none.

Given the surreal and whimsical elements in this movie, it remains a well-built and grounded piece of work. The opening sequence brings to mind the opening scenes to “Wonder Woman” set in the idyllic Themyscira. In this case, it is an ideal world of peaceful beings. The civilization depends upon little creatures who happily produce pearls that power their world. These beings, like the young lovers, Valerian and Laureline, are quite otherly. It is this otherliness that informs this rather sophisticated narrative that gently balances irreverence and idealism. Just the sort of thing you’d expect from the very best comics.

Of course, you can’t please everyone. Americans, in particular, have become quite reliant upon extra bells and whistles, even after they’ve just been presented with a formidable visual feast. No, it doesn’t seem to matter if they’ve just viewed a masterpiece–Where’s the gag reel?! they demand. And, with that in mind, you may love the video below that includes just that sort of bonus content:

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is undoubtedly a joyride of a movie. You will love it. Visit the official Valerian movie website right here.

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Filed under Comics, Europe, European Comics, France, Movie Reviews, movies, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Wars

Review: THE SWIMMING POOL OF MICHEVILLE by Baru

THE SWIMMING POOL OF MICHEVILLE by Baru

Baru (Hervé Barulea) is a legendary cartoonist known for such work as 1995’s euro-manga, “L’Autoroute du Soleil,” which won the prestigious Alph’ Art award for the best original French language comic. More recently, he won wide acclaim in 2010 for his 300-page graphic novel, “Villerupt 1966,” published by Les Rêveurs. Baru favors recollections of his adventures as a youth in the ’60s. “The Swimming pool of Micheville,” published by Les Rêveurs in 2015, is an excellent collection of comics that chronicles Baru’s coming of age. It is one of a vast array of comics that you can find at the new home for online comics around the world, izneo.com.

Goofy John

The theme for this collection of Baru comics is a lost generation of kids who, despite a bleak environment and dim prospects for the future, still pursue dreams and hopes. Take “Goofy John,” for instance. He will do anything to impress the girls even build his body to Charles Atlas proportions. But, even with his new bod, the girls are not in the least interested. As the guys are quick to point out, John still has buck teeth and rabbit ears. And, besides, as the little stinkers take pleasure in pointing out, all the girls have moved on to lean mod boys.

Verdini

One such teddy boy, is Verdini, who manages to frustrate the guys on all counts. Verdini has been sized up as not too bright, along with other shortcomings. And, despite it all, the girls all go for him! You can see that Baru takes great delight in doling out all of his social commentary to the point that you are immersed in it. Baru’s light artwork lifts off the page. His style is wry and light, pleasing to the eye.

Circa 1963: A lost generation

Baru excels in bringing out the pathos in a scene. He roots for the underdog. His beloved characters are all supposedly “losers” in the great game of life. Baru sees the poetry and gentle beauty in his lost generation. These are the kids who are held back, dismissed, forced out of any higher education. The steelworks and the typist pool await these poor youth. But, for at least a few summers, they can all enjoy the local swimming pool in their prime: lost in their libidos and flirting in their swimsuits. So what if everything is covered in a fine mist of rust red from smoke coming from the nearby bessemer converter?

THE SWIMMING POOL OF MICHEVILLE is a wonderful collection featuring stories about cars, rugby, and romance. It runs 81 pages in full color. And you can find it at izneo.com right here.

Here is some more information on izeno:

THE FIRST OFFICIAL AND LEGAL ONLINE COMIC BOOK READING SERVICE

The biggest comic book publishers have partnered to launch izneo, the first digital comic book reading service.

With izneo, publishers like Bamboo, Casterman, Circonflexe, Dargaud, Dupuis, Fei, Fluide Glacial, Grand Angle, Jungle, Kana, Le Lombard, and Lucky Comics will offer the largest catalog of e-comics.

Open to all comic book genres, the izneo catalog expands every month with even more new albums.

The izneo service is simple: rent an album from €1.99, or buy from €4.99 (online reading)! What’s more, for €9.99 a month, subscription allows comic book lovers to read as many albums as they like from all over the world.The comic book is a form of graphic and literary art, which is particularly suited to on-screen reading, especially on a tablet. With the izneo app, you can read your comic books while on the move.You can also access izneo via e-bookstores such as iBookstore, Immatériel, Amazon.fr, Fnac.com or even Starzik.com… izneo also has a special subscription plan for libraries.

Yet another opportunity for new readers to discover the joy of comic albums…

The izneo team

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, Baru, BD, Comics, Europe, European Comics, France, French Comics, izneo, Les Rêveurs

Review: ‘Läskimooses’ by Matti Hagelberg

Panel excerpt from “Läskimooses” by Matti Hagelberg

“Läskimooses,” by Matti Hagelberg, has got to be one of the most unusual of comics. It comes out in single issues and the plan is for the complete collected work to be an epic over 1,000 pages. Currently, this art/sci-fi comic book totals around 700 pages, is published 7 issues per year, and is the longest single comics story ever to be produced in Finland.

Hagelberg is best known for his scratchboard technique that he has used in most of his works, published by L’association and Le Dernier Cri in France (Raw Vision 83). It is a wonderfully obsessive vision, part parody and part stream of consciousness. Hagelberg is on an adventure to find the meaning of life and the secrets to the universe byway of conspiracy theories. Only a determined artist like Hagelberg can sustain such a quest. It makes for fascinating results.

Artist Matti Hagelberg

It’s not uncommon for an artist to keep to one theme or one universe in their body of work. Hagelberg has always drawn stories set in the same universe. His epic Läskimooses comics are quite a dramatic example of focused work harkening back to classic comic strips. His theme of exploring the universe is broad enough to sustain a lifetime’s work. The energy and enthusiasm comes across the page. He has set up some fun devices to keep the narrative flowing like an ongoing conversation between characters discussing cosmic subjects. You don’t need to know how to read Finnish to enjoy it either.

Läskimooses #28

I always enjoy writing about comics from outside the United States. Sometimes, I am not sure how to hook into a work and I find it is better to let it simmer and then I come back to it. So is the case with “Läskimooses.” You can now enjoy an issue of the comic book with a handy translation sheet in English. That will certainly clear up any questions about why you’re seeing a bunch of monkeys or what’s going on regarding a volcanic eruption.

Page from Läskimooses #28

Again, let me emphasize that the visuals are pretty stunning all by themselves. Some issues, like #28 above, are only images, no text at all. Basically, all you need to know to begin with is that Läskimooses and Ohto are both planets and figure prominently in the narrative. The two ongoing characters have their own ideas on existential matters that they’re working through. It’s interesting that Hagelberg’s initial idea was to set his story on the Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He had a spectacle in mind right from the start. Anyway, we’re all working through our own existential issues, right? It’s fun to see an artist with such an unabashed and audacious attitude share with us his vision of the sublime and the profound. I look forward to what develops next with this intriguing and unusual project.

To get an issue of “Läskimooses,” with an English translation sheet included, go to Printed Matter right here.

For a closer look at the artist at work, check out this video right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Europe, European Comics, Finland, Matti Hagelberg, Scandinavia, Sci-Fi, science fiction