Please note: The 360° Review is reviewing the
English-language dub of Un monstre à Paris.
Tokyo brought us Godzilla; New York had Kong.
Paris? Paris has a seven foot flea… Who plays the guitar. And so we have A Monster in Paris, an animated musical from director Bibo Bergeron. A declaration of love and a salute to the ‘classic’ era of film, Bergeron shows that, this year, cinematic nostalgia is very much a la mode.
The year is 1910 and the Great Flood has devastated Paris. Yet when eccentric inventor, Raoul (Adam Goldberg), and a film projectionist, Emile (Jay Harrington) accidentally set loose a terrifying creature onto the streets, a fresh wave of panic threatens to engulf the city. The only person who can see Francoeur for who (not what) he really is, is the beautiful young ingénue Lucille, a cabaret singer at L’Oiseau Rare (The Rare Bird). Police Chief Maynott (Danny Huston) sees nothing beyond his own ambition and instead vows to hunt down ‘the Monster of Paris’; in doing so, the true monster of the city reveals himself.
The English dub retains Vanessa Paradis as Lucille, and while we’ve lost the renowned star Matthieu Chedid (-M-), Sean Lennon has stepped in and lent his unique vocal talent (and prodigious guitar skills) to the character of Francoeur. Music is at the heart of A Monster in Paris and it could not have survived the transatlantic restyling without these superb performances. The musical numbers are fantastic, although the French soundtrack is definitely worth getting a hold of once the credits begin to roll.
Stylistically too, the film is an absolute delight (although it is difficult, really, to paint Paris in a particularly grim light). Here we have strong artistic influences from every angle; from the work of Gustave Caillebotte and Alfred Sisley, to that of André Franquin and Walt Disney, Bergeron’s vision of A Monster in Paris is as richly woven as his passion for the city itself. It’s a quirky, rose-tinted portrait of “the City of Lights”, and everything, from the characters to the misty streets, is beautiful.
However A Monster in Paris is not without its faults. You may find yourself asking, who is this film made for? Am I the intended audience, or should this be for the kids? On one hand, it’s a theatrical, sensational, musical oddity, designed with a mature audience in mind. Yet, on the other, the story upon which it is based (one any child will recognise from Beauty and the Beast or The Hunchback of Notre Dame) is as simple as they come. It lacks bite; this is one monster movie with no teeth, and all heart.
OFF ON A TANGENT
Here, I was the director and the auteur, and that notion is ‘sacred’ in Europe. I had more freedom—which meant more responsibilities, too. But I will never regret my experience at DreamWorks. I learned so much over there, with so many talented people in every department. That experience helped me a lot on this movie.
(Bibo Bergaron; courtesy of Animation Magazine)
TO BE CONTINUED…
Ramin Zahed and Animation Magazine; A Fin-de-Siècle Fantasy: ‘A Monster in Paris’