Category Archives: Paris

FRANCIS BACON: BOOKS AND PAINTING at the Pompidou Centre

Texting before Bacon.

Francis Bacon was certainly on my radar during my time in art school. Just as I was completing my formal training at the University of Houston, I was aware of Bacon’s continued presence and activity. And then he died. I earned my BFA the year he passed away, 1992. Yes, Francis Bacon (1909-1992) was acknowledged as a heroic figure, a painter in the great tradition of towering romantic and angst-ridden artists. But what were we as art students doing with that information? What were our professors sharing with us about him? I mostly recall the awful jokes that he was Bacon the contemporary artist and not Bacon the great philosopher. So, in a nutshell, we didn’t do much of anything with Bacon looming in the background. Maybe I did more than most. I know a lot of students were lost in their own uneducated and overindulgent worlds or absorbed with the hotshots of the recent era as we understood it, people like Francisco Clemente, David Salle, even Julian Schnabel, especially Schnabel since he’d gone to UH for a short time. And, of course, there was no internet as we know it today and, in hindsight, I damn well could have used it back then!

Second Version of Painting from 1946, Museum of Modern Art, 1971.

After 1992, life’s circumstances gave me a bit of a bum’s rush from school and out the door. I’ve been cartwheeling ever since. Not to digress too much, but I’ve come out on top in a number of ways such as having the opportunity to gaze upon this dazzling show of Francis Bacon paintings at the Pompidou Centre! From the little I could glean from glossy art magazines, art history books and a few lectures, I was aware of Bacon’s raw and tortured energy. He was a rough cut fellow, is how I would casually put it if I was attempting to introduce him to someone unfamiliar with him and his work. Bacon’s career began in the 1940s and blossomed in the next two pivotal decades. Many an art student was familiar with Bacon’s landmark painting of the screaming pope, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953. What did it mean? Where did it come from? We mostly chalked it up as subversive. That much we knew for sure and we loved it.

Gathering among Bacon.

That brings us to this current show at the Pompidou Centre. Jennifer and I had managed to arrive just in time to settle into it with little else than an introductory pamphlet. So, there was some adjusting to do as we both gorged upon Bacon. We were certainly not alone. There was a nervy energy running throughout the crowd of people. The show had recently opened for its run of 11 September 2019 to 20 January 2020. They had all come to see Bacon! But what did it mean to them? They knew his name and they knew about the famous work and the raw energy. There was that and there was a theme attached to the show–but gathering up so many Bacons in one space was more than enough, theme or no theme. It wasn’t until I’d made the turn into another room that I sniffed out the curator’s ardor for organizing, labeling, categorizing and zealous need to impose their ownership upon another’s work. After all, Francis Bacon was first and foremost a painter. He was self-taught. He, unlike countless academics and so-called scholars, got dirty and actually did things. This is not to say that a finely-articulated analysis is not welcome from time to time but it is often best to be taken with a grain of salt. Anyway, the idea for the show is to tie Bacon’s choice of reading with his painting. That’s why this show has rooms where all you have is a book on display and an audio of someone reading.

Oedipus and the Sphinx, after Ingres, 1983.

It does make sense to link Bacon to his reading habits given the fact he was such an avid reader. He loved books. They came naturally to him as they did for many a young rebel of his time. There are a number of choices on display in this show that would have been catnip for many a young artist back then and even today. At least, one hopes young artists haven’t changed so much now that they are, on the whole, bypassing gorging upon the works of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Jean Racine, Balzac, Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Freud, T.S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, Proust and many others. Well, that is the formal tent under which all these Bacons have been arranged. Process that however you like.

Walking towards Bacon.

One thing that struck me about this show is how it feels like it is stretching past its own time, as if it is still pulsating, still preening upon the gallery wall space and not ready to succumb to a timeless role as a museum artifact. I mean, the work still feels “contemporary” to me. While I was an art student, we had to suffer through all the prattle from critics and tastemakers over whether or not figurative painting was dead or not. To think we were getting this kind of talk even as we’d been experiencing a bunch of interesting “new” approaches to figurative work by the likes of Eric Fischl and Jonathan Borofsky. Finally, fast forward to today, the big secret is that figurative painting will never die. It’s just too vital, too primal, too essential. I guess, seeing this show takes me back to sometime before Bacon’s death, a world where there was a Francis Bacon still making new paintings and even making definitive versions of previous work. That is what this show is about: Bacon’s last two decades of his career (from 1971 to 1992). I can feel that artist raging and creating, knowing time was running out. So, ultimately, this show is more than about books and painting. This show is about an artist taking what he’s learned about painting and setting forth with his final explorations.

Bacon was always raging and rebelling, seeking a way to be the next Picasso. He was being himself when it was against the law in England to engage in homosexual acts. It wasn’t until 1967 that sex between two adult men (21 years-old) was decriminalized in the UK. What’s a “British artist” like Bacon to do? Well, that’s easy enough, go where you are welcome: Paris, the city that is open and fluid, revels in bohemian excess, and welcomes sex in all its many flavors. It was at the Grand Palais show at the Pompidou Centre in 1971 that Bacon delivered a landmark show that earned him critical praise, and raised him to the rank of a Picasso. And the show was more about love and sex than books. You can add a variety of erudite references but, at some point, you need to acknowledge the human being writhing upon a toilet! The Grand Palais show revolved around Bacon’s lover, George Dyer, who killed himself the day before the opening. As Jonathan Jones describes in a wonderful piece in The Guardian, it was Bacon’s muse, in the form of Dyer, who made the show what it was and, with his suicide, nearly brought it all tumbling down. The new show at the Pompidou Centre, interestingly enough, covers the time after the celebrated Grand Palais show of 1971. Again, this has nothing to do with the connection of books to paintings, but it’s a nice theme to wrap around a body of work that defies the curator’s nimble touch.

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Filed under Art, Artists, Painting, Paris

Review: MOZART IN PARIS

Mozart on the search for empathy and recognition.

A genius is not always fortunate to be appreciated in his own time. That was the fate of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You would think that he’d get some love in such a sophisticated place as Paris but, back in 1778, he needed to hustle in order to get recognition. And Mozart was not one who easily hustled. He repeatedly had to fight for the right to be acknowledged as an artist on his own terms. Frantz Duchazeau brings that struggle to life in his new graphic novel, Mozart in Paris, published by SelfMadeHero, distributed by Abrams, available starting October 8, 2019.

A genius in Paris.

Mozart is Mozart, who can deny that? Maybe Salieri? You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen 1984’s Amadeus. But even Salieri, the rival and villain in that movie, had the good sense to know he was dealing with a genius composer. In this graphic novel, we get a wonderful look at the reality of indifference and shortsightedness. French tastemakers, threatened or indifferent to Mozart’s original and innovative music, would try to keep him out of the limelight. Mozart’s own father was relentless in dismissing Mozart’s efforts but, to his credit, he was dealing with a highly precocious individual who did not calm more conservative nerves.

MOZART IN PARIS by Frantz Duchazeau

Mozart didn’t think it was really up to him to convince anyone of his skill and talent. That kind of attitude doesn’t come without a price. Frantz Duchazeau does a wonderful job of showing the reader just what price Mozart had to pay for his own brand of naive arrogance. What if he had only held back and allowed someone to receive a false compliment? What if he had held back and not insulted a rival?

Mozart, as instructor.

Duchazeau has quite an engaging way with the page. Of all the comics I’ve been reading lately, he is definitely among those I see with a magical touch. As if evoking the grace and uncanny elegance of Mozart’s music, Duchazeau balances an engaging mix of variety upon the page with nicely modulated recurring elements, like the way he constructs his panels with one center panel speaking to the bigger picture.  In the two examples on display in this review, you have Mozart in the center of one page seeking consensus on his genius. On another page, he is at the center again, but this time he must restrain himself for the sake of his beloved pupil.

Mozart, a young man in a hurry.

Sometimes you must fold your wings in order to someday spread them. That is, unless you’re Mozart. But, on the other hand, this is also the story of a young man in the big city. Mozart was only 22 years-old during this early visit to Paris. And Mozart was driven and had no time to waste. Duchazeau guides the reader through Mozart’s bumpy ride as he stumbles and gets that much closer to his destiny.

Run, Mozart, Run!

Mozart in Paris is a 96-page full color trade paperback, published by SelfMadeHero, distributed by Abrams, available starting October 8, 2019.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, Music, Paris

Review: MAGGY GARRISSON, published by SelfMadeHero

Surely, Maggy has had better days than this.

Maggy, the classic hard luck girl. She’s the one that gets away with nothing but keeps on trying. Maggy, the perfect anti-hero for this brilliant shaggy dog crime fiction! Maggy Garrisson is a new graphic novel published by SelfMadeHero, an imprint of Abrams Books. The script is my legendary cartoonist Lewis Trondheim. The art is my acclaimed cartoonist Stéphane Oiry. Let’s take a closer look.

Anyone reading this like Bridget Jones? Maggy is similar to Bridget as she’s outspoken and smarter than given credit for. She’s also quite persistent although there’s no arguing that she’s inclined to slow down at a London pub with a pint of Guinness. So, a bit of a walking contradiction, just what we like in a good offbeat main character. Maggy literally stumbles onto her new job, after having been unemployed for a couple of years. It’s not much of a job, a secretary to a two-bit detective, but this is Maggy we’re talking about.

For those well-read in comics, you will be inclined to compare Maggy with another Maggie found in Jaime Hernandez’s series, Love and Rockets. The artwork by Stéphane Oiry in this book is up to the task of evoking that high level of gritty comics realism. I must say, it is quite a treat to read this book as it collects three interconnected stories to create a rich tableau or grifters, drifters, and other sordid malcontents. I had a great time when I picked up the first story a while ago and reviewed it here. It would do an ole cartoonist like me some good, and you too in the bargain, if I might get a chance to talk to the creative team behind this book. Well, if not soon then soon enough. For now, this book will suffice.

No doubt, the material in this book would adapt very well for Netflix. Interesting point here: the book is so finely put together, from the precision details to the vivid colors, that Netflix can wait. Yes, it’s that good: a gripping tale married to a feast for the eyes in artwork. Trondheim has such a beautiful and distinctive cartoony style to his comics so it makes sense that he’d want the art for this crime fiction to go to Stéphane Oiry who excels in a hybrid style of cartoony and realistic. For one thing, his background in architecture definitely shows through in all his crisp and finely detailed backgrounds. And his development of characters is exquisite. Oiry knows how to get into the head of our high-strung Maggy. Oiry, a fine student in the masters of comics, channels Love and Rockets in a way that makes it his own. This is Oiry’s working-class London and welcome to it.

Like many a good detective story, there are enough MacGuffins here to dazzle any Hitchcock fan. This is a decidedly character-driven story but that’s not to say we’ve got an empty plot. In fact, the prevailing theme will strike a chord with anyone: don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. And if that doesn’t sink in, how about this: leave well enough alone that which might come back and kill you. You see, Maggy, the firebrand, is the sort who finds it hard not to play with fire. And you, I’m sure, will find it hard to put this book down.

This is a perfect read! Maggy will surely not be forgotten by any reader. I’ll give this book a perfect score: 10/10.

Maggy Garrisson is a 152-page full color hardcover, available as of June 11, 2019. For more details, visit Abrams Books right here.

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Filed under Comics, Crime Fiction, Lewis Trondheim, London, Paris, SelfMadeHero, Stéphane Oiry

Review: ‘Guardians of the Louvre’

Jiro Taniguchi Louvre comics

I would love to know the details on the Louvre series published by NBM. This latest installment, “Guardians of the Louvre,” by acclaimed manga artist Jirô Taniguchi just goes to show once again how unique this subject is and the endless possibilities for it. What a great cartoonist wants in a project, especially one who both writes and draws and has done so for many years, is a task worthy of the enormous effort. And, to sweeten the deal, make it something heroic. A cartoonist loves it when he or she can make a grand gesture.

Reading Guardians of the Louvre

Reading Guardians of the Louvre

What I’m saying about the grand gesture is so very true. Look at how Taniguchi responds to the task: his main character/alter ego is reduced to a little heap in comparison to the Louvre and its many treasures, opportunities, and mysteries. He arrives in Paris completely spent from a bad case of the flu. He is completely overwhelmed, out of his element, his observations through a fever dream. Like Little Nemo on his magic flying bed, we set off on a most unusual journey.

The Louvre, outside of any known realm.

The Louvre, outside of any known realm.

Our hero, due to a bad rabbit stew or some such mishap, is now in tune with the supernatural elements of the Louvre. When you consider that we are talking about a museum that is over 200 years old, as large as ten football fields, holding 70,000 pieces of art going back to antiquity, well, it would not be surprising to find that it has many tales to tell and that it is at least a bit haunted, right? Taniguchi asks that you run with that idea.

And so one grand gesture leads to another. We see poltergeist in all their gloopy glory floating about. We meet a beautiful ghost, presumably the Winged Victory. And, it just goes on from there as we go in and out of time, meet various artists long gone expect very much alive in this moment. The Louvre is a House of Leaves. It is a place that insists you shed your normal skin and walk amongst it. You inhabit a place such as the Louvre and you can’t help but let it inhabit you.

“Guardians of the Louvre” is the latest in the NBM Louvre series. It is a full color hardcover, right to left reading manga-style, 8 x 11, 136 pages. For more details, go right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Comics, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM Publishing, Paris, The Louvre

Review: Girl Over Paris #1 (of 4) (The Cirque American Series)

Jules Maroni out to prove them wrong.

Jules Maroni out to prove them wrong.

Jules Maroni is a celebrity tightrope walker connected to the supernatural in the latest comic from Amazon’s Jet City Comics. I love a good story with complications. Part of the fun of reading a comic that is hinting at something spooky around the corner is how it creates its trail of breadcrumbs. “Girl Over Paris” sets the tone for a spooky adventure with style and joie de vivre.

Part of Gwenda Bond’s CIRQUE AMERICAN universe, this story, written by Kate Leth (Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, Adventure Time: Seeing Red), follows Jules and the gang as they fly from the U.S. to France in order to perform at a big event and allow Jules to regain her stature after a long hiatus. Artwork by Ming Doyle (The Kitchen, Constantine: The Hellblazer) and colors by Andrew Dalhouse enhance the pixie-romantic quality to this tale.

Reading "Girl Over Paris #1"

Reading “Girl Over Paris #1”

There’s a lot of luscious detail to this comic that sets it apart. I like the gentle pace too. Ms. Leth does a wonderful job of allowing us into the innermost thoughts of Jules: she is making a comeback, opening up to her new boyfriend, and confronting a supernatural entity. That’s quite a lot for a first issue.

Girl Over Paris #1 (The Cirque American Series) is available as of July 6, 2016. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Review: ‘Cruising Through the Louvre’ by David Prudhomme

CRUISING THROUGH THE LOUVRE

CRUISING THROUGH THE LOUVRE

Paris, and the Louvre, are beacons to artists and art lovers and will always be. What we know is that such things matter dearly, are a deeply essential part of life. Now, in the aftershock of the horror of the terrorist attack in Brussels, we choose to remain alert and vigilant but we also choose to remain steadfast in our celebration of humanity at its best. There is no other way. So, with that in mind, it gives me added resolve and passion, as I share with you this latest item. Oh, yes, this is such a relevant book with that heightened sense of timelessness. Look at this book and you’ve met a good friend, David Prudhomme’s new graphic novel, “Cruising Through the Louvre,” published by NBM Publishing.

With old pal, Rembrandt

With old pal, Rembrandt

David Prudhomme is a man to watch, indeed. He is a fellow cartoonist who I would love to meet sometime. I’m sure we’d have plenty to talk about. I see his work as full of a zest for life in all its lusty and gritty splendor. Now, take a cartoonist such as this and set him loose in the Louvre. Well, Mr. Prudhomme certainly lives up to the challenge. I know that, if I was set loose in the Louvre, I would have my own idiosyncratic view, and so it certainly is with this masterful artist. It may seem easy but to throw down the scenario of an offbeat observer wandering through some of the greatest art of all time is quite a mind-bending proposition. This requires a steady hand, brain, and hours of editing as all these impressions that come to mind must finally adhere to some coherent narrative.

Reading "Cruising Through the Louvre," by David Prudhomme

Reading “Cruising Through the Louvre,” by David Prudhomme

Prudhomme has a beautifully loose style that evokes a stream of consciousness outlook. Prudhomme is in the Louvre ostensibly to find his girlfriend, Jeanne. This may or may never happen. That does not really matter. The guy is wearing a baggy coat, a huge Russian fur cap with ear flaps, and he’s got his cell phone at the ready. He gets to spend some time with his good pal, Rembrandt, and then he’s on the move, looking for Jeanne, marveling over art, and endlessly people-watching. The sensory overload is intoxicating. Soon he is recombining people with art: one tourist’s foot aligns with the foot from a sculpture; or one sleepy heap of museum patrons seamlessly fit as an extension of Théodore Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa.”

A zest for life

A zest for life

We enter into a whole other world when we inhabit such a place as the Louvre. It really isn’t something you want to leave for just a couple of hours. I would easily go each day for weeks, months, if not years. It would not take too much in the way of convincing for me to return to my old museum guard days. Roaming through such vast expression of sensual delight, it would also not take too much convincing for me to return to my days as a life drawing model. Ah, such is the power of the Louvre. But, most of all, it is a place that inspires me both as writer and artist. Everyone finds something to lose themselves in. Prudhomme is wonderfully uninhibited with his observations. He is keenly aware that, once out of one’s element, people can get in touch with content they would normally zone out. For instance, consider Prudhomme’s drawing of a tourist snapping a photo of an old warrior’s genitals. Well, within context, it makes total sense. Snap away!

What Mona Lisa saw

What Mona Lisa saw

The Louvre has always been a place for the people. Give people a chance to enjoy art, and they will rise to it. Give them the Louvre, and you have provided heaven on earth. Prudhomme does not shun or ridicule the public’s hearty appetite for snapping photos and video. In fact, instead of shaking his head over what some might dismiss as the spectacle over viewing the Mona Lisa, he wonders what people do after they’ve gotten their good look. He also wonders what Mona Lisa would see if she bothered to look back at all her admirers. There’s no easy answer. There’s just too many people to consider. All that humanity enjoying their time in the Louvre for a multitude of reasons, no one reason being better or worse than the other! All this, Prudhomme manages to speak to in this quite remarkable book. Bravo! This is a keepsake that you will enjoy many times over.

"Cruising Through the Louvre," by David Prudhomme

“Cruising Through the Louvre,” by David Prudhomme

“Cruising Through the Louvre” is an 80-page full color hardcover. For more details, visit NBM Publishing right here.

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Filed under Comics, David Prudhomme, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM, NBM Publishing, Paris, The Louvre, Travel

Review: Pablo: Art Masters Series

Pablo-Self-Made-Hero-Birmant

To explore the life of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) is to explore the life of a man who left a huge mark on art, so huge a mark that to take him out of the picture would be, well, unthinkable. To better understand the man, we have this new graphic novel, published by SelfMadeHero, simply entitled, “Pablo.”

How better to get a grip on the man behind the legend than to explore his early years. And who better to guide us than the woman in his young life, Fernande Olivier. This is no simple story of love, or friendship, or an artist’s development. This is the great Picasso, after all. However, with Fernande’s help, we get a down to earth look at him. The creators of this graphic novel have placed Fernande in the role she had always aspired to, that of storyteller. Through the script by Julie Birmant and the artwork by Clément Oubrerie, we get one of the most lucid depictions of the life of Picasso, one of the most celebrated and enigmatic of public figures.

Pablo-Picasso-Fernande-Oubrerie

Fernande. Who was this person? Fernande Olivier (born Amélie Lang; 1881–1966) would become a well-known artist’s model and, ultimately, a writer. She was involved with Picasso from 1904 to 1911. She was one of the models for Picasso’s landmark work, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Picasso would paint her over one hundred times. Fernande’s memoir entitled, “Picasso and his Friends,” was published in 1930. It outraged Picasso and led to her agreeing not to publish any more details about their time together until after their deaths. Without a doubt, Picasso would not be pleased with this new graphic novel. Fernande is not a woman easily impressed with Picasso’s antics. As we see here, she is a veteran of Parisian art circles. And she proves quite a match for him.

Pablo-Picasso-SelfMadeHero-2015

Picasso. The world would know his name. But, as for Fernande, there came a point when she no longer had a place in his life. As his star ascended, she only reminded him of the hard times. Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie depict a career that began in poverty and reached its climax with the advent of cubism and modern art. We see Picasso’s art develop through friendships with poets Max Jacob and Guillaume Apollinaire, the painter Georges Braque, and his great rival Henri Matisse. And all through, arguably, the most fruitful and significant time in his career, there was Fernande.

This is a book that provides a fresh new look at Paris, the capital of the art world at the turn of the 20th century. Julie Birmant gives a nod to younger readers by including such terms and phrases as “awesome” and “kill me now” in the dialogue. It’s not overdone and adds a contemporary feel to the action. For the most part, the narrative is straightforward and peppered with intriguing bits of insight. Here, for instance, is a description of the first time that Fernande saw Picasso’s studio: “I still remember the smell: a mixture of wet dog, oil, dust and tobacco…the smell of work.”

This is a very honest and beautiful work. It will appeal to all ages from teen on up. It’s a frank look at the artist’s life and just goes to show that even the great Picasso had to start somewhere and he did not do it alone. In many ways, it’s the very same path that any young artist takes today, including the revelations from reading Rimbaud. Picasso lived that life long before Millennials and this book does a wonderful job of bridging that gap. The young Picasso is made quite relatable and would fit right in any coffee shop today.

“Pablo” is a 344-page trade paperback, published by SelfMadeHero. It is available as of May 5, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at SelfMadeHero right here. You can also find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Comics, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Modern Art, Pablo Picasso, Paris, SelfMadeHero

Review: ‘Phantoms of the Louvre’ (Louvre Collection)

Bilal's Marpada (Wonder Woman?) from "Phantoms of the Louvre"

Bilal’s Marpada (Wonder Woman?) from “Phantoms of the Louvre”

Bilal is a legendary sci-fi and fantasy artist. He has an uncanny ability to evoke a vast world of suspense and mystery. His villains are utterly macabre. His women are utlra-cool sexy. For his contribution to the NBM ComicsLit Louvre collection, Bilal provides us with twenty-two ghost stories in his graphic novel, “Phantoms of the Louvre.” He focuses on a particular work in the Louvre, photographs it, and then works his magic with acrylic, pastel, and prose. For example, we have the story of Marpada who, it would not be a stretch to say brings to mind Wonder Woman. If you ever wondered what a Bilal Wonder Woman would be like, this has got to be it. Note to DC Comics: Entice Bilal to do a Wonder Woman story!

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, Bilal, Comics, ComicsLit, France, French Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM, Paris, The Louvre, Wonder Woman

Review: ‘On the Odd Hours’ (Louvre Collection)

On-the-Odd-Hours-Eric-Liberge

“On the Odd Hours” is part of the NBM ComicsLit collection of Louvre-inspired comics. Eric Liberge not only gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the grand museum from the perspective of museum guards. He’s created quite a fanciful story. What if the Louvre was haunted by all its great works and it’s up to one particular guard, in the odd hours of the night, to pacify the spirits?

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, Comics, ComicsLit, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM, Paris, The Louvre

Movie Review: The French Minister

The-French-Minister-Abel-Lanzac

If you are interested in an intriguing movie based on a work in comics besides “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” you will want to see “The French Minister.” This comedy could be your window to offbeat political satire and French comics all rolled into one.

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Filed under Comics, France, French Comics, Movie Reviews, movies, Paris, politics