Saturday, 20 September 2014


There's a startling moment in Sylvain Chomet's Attila Marcel where he indulges in a sweet spot of nostalgia. A fight imagined in stop-motion shadow, a fleeting moment that could reasonably be mistaken for live action, but it's the loveliest little quirk in a film full of them if you notice it. Quirk is all very well, and nostalgia serves this particular director decently, but whimsy can too easily turn to fluff. When Chomet allows his fanciful tendencies to get the better of him, Attila Marcel loses its charm - a forced insouciance takes over and the magic is ruined. Mostly, though, he keeps a collected rigour over the film, one that comes delightfully naturally to him. The simple precision of his mise-en-scene combined with the gleeful romanticism of this fictional France is just wondrous. Chomet's design lacks the poetic purity of his illustrations in his animated films, and his actors' human motions can't compare to his hand-drawn creations' stylised demeanours, but Attila Marcel is nevertheless an exquisitely quirky, sugary little chouquette. The musical numbers, forming herbal tea-influenced memories, are rendered as feverish Jacques Demy-esque sequences, gaudily assembled as an aesthetic counterpoint to the pastel prettiness of the film's main body; these flashback scenes are garishly directed, on the whole, and, in fact, often victim to poor creative decisions - bad casting, ugly production design, tacky music - which the rest of Attila Marcel isn't afflicted with. On the contrary, these are elements which shine beautifully through the contemporary portions. It's unbecoming of Chomet to experiment in this uber-whimsical style - his inventiveness is apparent in those flourishes, those quirks, which hearken back to his animations. Looking forward is all very well in principle, but, in practice, it's nostalgia that serves M. Chomet best of all.