Another foreign animated pick up from the good folks at GKIDS, this time from France (with a fine alternate English-language track), directed by Rémi Bezançon & Jean-Christophe Lie. Visually a treat, like a deluxe-edition illustrated storybook, it tells the very tall-tale of how a brave (also clever, also stubborn) African boy runs away from a slave trader only to wind up bringing Paris its very first giraffe. (With many a friend & enemy on his adventures over land, sea & desert.) Drawn with a stylized, elegant hand, it’s a beauty to see, and also to hear in Laurent Perez Del Mar’s witty score with its echoes Maurice Jarre’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. If only the story wasn’t such an episodic mess. Told as a folk tale by the village elder to a group of young African kids, it’s also a bit too violent & intense for the presumed under-10 demographic what with slave trade, murder, alcoholism & traumatic separations. (So, Family Friendly with reservations.) And kids over ten may find the animation technique too traditional & old-fashioned, without the expected hip, ironic/contemporary edge. It’s sincere. Exactly the thing fans of Ghibli Animation will get into. They’ll also note the resemblance of this film’s main comic figure (the balloonist) to various Ghibli Mad Hatter types.
DOUBLE-BILL: The GKIDS DVD comes with a short semi-animated documentary, THE GIRAFFE OF PARIS/’57 which does an excellent job telling the true, rather melancholy story.