Sunday 26 May 2013

French Animation, Chapitre 4 - Ernest & Celestine

Previously: Persepolis

What is it?
Ernest & Celestine is loosely based on a series of books written by Gabrielle Vincent between 1981 and 2000; it's the story of an impossible friendship between a mouse and a bear. The film opened in France in December 2012, and is heading for a Fall 2013 release date in the United States - not sure about the rest of the world though. 
In the following review, I'll try to convince you to see Ernest & Celestine when you get the chance. You've been warned.

The Story
In this film, there are two worlds: the mice live in the underground world, where the little rodents are told how dangerous and evil the big bad bear is; above the surface live the bears, who don't care that much about the mice. Except when they're stealing things, then they try to kill them.
The whole movie plays on that duality, as the story focuses on two characters that couldn't be farther apart: a young mouse, Celestine, who doesn't believe bears are really evil; and a destitute, musician bear, Ernest, whose only motivation at the beginning of the film is to find something to eat.
The meeting between the two main characters of Ernest & Celestine will result in a touching friendship, which defies the established order and goes beyond the fear of the unknown.
This is a beautiful tale, told with a lot of heart, a witty concept and in a highly entertaining manner. Ernest and Celestine are immediately likeable, and you'll be rooting for them throughout the whole thing.
The only problem I have with the script is the pace. It's fine for a good portion of the film, and then, after a very funny escape scene, the film just slows down. Yes, it's probably on purpose, to give time for the characters to learn about each other, but I thought it was a bit too long.

Direction, Look, Music
The thing that is instantly noticeable about Ernest & Celestine is the look that the directors gave to the film. It's a very distinct look and, like all films I've been reviewing in this column so far, shows yet again why traditional animation should be used more. You can't have these watercolour-like designs with CG or stop motion. It's something I had never seen before and which is quite beautiful. Sometimes you feel like you're in a book and each new background, each new scene, is another page you turn. 
The general design is very simple - sometimes minimalist to a fault, even - but sometimes really fun, and the animation is subtle enough to get you emotionally involved in the characters.
Something has to be said here about the music. Like pretty much the rest of the film, the music is very measured, and a very well crafted piece of art.

Ernest & Celestine is another fine piece of French animation. One that you have to see if you love the medium. It has heart, an anti-fear message, a good amount of fun, an amazing look and lovable characters. Come on! What more do you want? Definitely check it out if you happen to stumble upon it.

Next: The Illusionist


Actually, as it turns out, Ernest & Celestine is out on DVD in the UK tomorrow! You can order the highly recommended film via our Amazon Associates link above.

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