Thursday, September 11, 2014

Belle and Sebastian (orig. Belle et Sébastien) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG)  LaCroix (3 Stars)  LeMonde (2 1/2 Stars) Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Allociné.fr listing* (F.  Lebreton) review* (N, Luciani) review* (T. Niezel) review* (F. Mangiò) review* (E. Bartlová) review*
Variety review

Belle and Sebastian (orig. Belle et Sébastien) [2013] [IMDb] []* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Nicholas Vanier [IMDb] []*, along with Fabien Suarez [IMDb] []* and Juliette Sales [IMDb] []*, based on the children's book [en.wikip] [fr.wikip]* by Cécile Aubry [en.wikip] [fr.wikip]* [IMDb] []*) is a lovely, beautifully-shot children's-oriented film about a 6-10 year old boy named Sébastien (played by Félix Bossuet [IMDb] []*) growing-up as an orphan and being raised by a "step-grandfather" named César (played by Tchéky Karyo [IMDb] []*) and his family in a small village in the French Alps near the Swiss border during Nazi Occupation.  During the course of the film, Sébastien befriends a previously abused wild sheepdog that he names Belle.  Together, of course, they eventully "help take on the Nazis" ;-)  The film played recently at the 2014 Chicago French Film Festival held at Chicago's Music Box Theater, a festival cosponsored by the French Diplomatic Mission to the United States.

It's a lovely film.  The scenery is absolutely beautiful.  And even the Germans in the film are played with texture (they're not all portrayed as uniformly evil...).  The film even _lightly confronts_ one of the biggest post-War shames of not just the French, but of _all_ the European nations that were occupied by the Nazis: the way the populations of these countries dealt, after liberation, with their young women who did (often only after some time...) fraternize with the young German soldiers of the previous occupying force.

Indeed, one of the subplots of the film involves late teen, early 20-something Angélina (played by Margaux Chatelier [IMDb] []*) presumably the daughter or granddaughter of César who still lives in the home of César and Sébastien but has a boyfriend Guillaume (played by Dimitri Storoge [IMDb] []*) in the resistance.  Throughout the film, she is repeatedly hit-upon / arguably at times harassed by a young German lieutenant named Peter (played by Andreas Pietschmann  [IMDb] []*) who turns out to be actually a pretty good guy.  His interest in Angélina involved more than just that she was an attractive young french woman living in the same town where he, a German soldier, far from home, found himself stationed in. 

That all noted and said, IMHO the greatest difficulty in marketing this film in the United States would be that the film is that it is clearly intended for children -- the story's central protagonists are a 6-10 year old boy and his dog -- Yet, of course, it is filmed in French.  There's no real tradition in the United States to dub such films (and if it was dubbed, the film would probably look awkward to American audiences).  Yet, obviously, a six-year old is not going to be "reading subtitles" ;-).

My sense is that the film would be best utilized (in the English speaking world) as a film shown in French language courses from the secondary school level (7th/8th grade) upward.  Again, the French Alpine scenery is absolutely beautiful and would probably encourage students to "keep with their studies" ("Yes, kids learning French is worth it ...").

So... this is a lovely film, it's just one that very few Americans are probably ever going to see, and IMHO, that is a shame.


It turns out that this film is available in bilingual (French w English subtitles) format IN CANADA.  North Americans can purchase it through at a (more or less...) reasonable price and it can be shipped anywhere (including the United States).

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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