Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Praise of The Fox and the Child

If you're prepared to put Kate Winslet's redundant narration aside, you will enjoy Luc Jacquet's The Fox and the Child as much as I did.

In every other sense, this is a superb, beautifully produced movie about man's relationship with nature -- in this case, man is a young French girl, and nature is a female fox (a vixen).

Clearly, the intended audience for this film is children, so I'm not oblivious to why Kate Winslet is constantly articulating what we know our heroine is thinking. It's not that Kate doesn't do a good job; it's just that the adult inside me is less tolerant of pointless cinematic devices than the child.

Of course, in the French cut of the film, the little girl (voiced as an adult byAmbra Angiolini) now a mother, is relating the story to her son (Thomas Laliberte), who never appears in the English language version. Thus, the primary story is a narrated flashback of her childhood.

Set in a meadow not unlike the meadow of another French celebration of nature, Microcosmos, we are introduced to a young girl on school holidays who encounters an intense looking fox one day. Although the meeting is short, the fox, a very handsome creature, makes quite an impression on the lass. Before you can say transition, months go by, school holidays arrive, and the the young girl has become determined to forge a friendship with her clever, furry friend.

The beauty of The Fox and the Child is its simplicity and exquisite craft. Director Jacquet previously helmed March of the Penguins, an award winning documentary. In this follow-up outing, he has opted for a soft narrative feature, one designed to showcase the beauty of nature, but also the beauty of patience and tolerance. There is a message about love and possession that is deftly handled, and the film's climactic sequence is sure to ruffle most emotional feathers.

The technical credits (photography and music) are somewhat astonishing, as is the rich and vibrant sound mix. The meadow setting, through which we view the four seasons, feels like a world within a world. Actress Bertille Noel-Bruneau, a freck-faced redhead, makes for a feisty, stubborn little heroine, and is not hampered by overt cuteness.

I would place this comfortably on the shelf beside Fly Away Home, The Bear, Milo and Otis, The Silver Brumby, and Hachiko - A Dog's Story (a film I will write about at length shortly).

The French title, Le Renard et l'enfant, has a beautiful ring to it.

7 comments:

  1. Sounds like "Pippy Longstocking" meets a real life version of "Basil Brush" by way of "Elvira Madigan" with just a hint of "The Sound Of Music".

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  2. Thanks for the heads up Mark, sounds like a good find. Hope LA is treating you well!

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  3. Anonymous -- "Pippy Brush & the Sound of Elvira" was too long a title, I heard.

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    Steve -- a great find. Both versions are good.

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  4. Theres no need for "borderline sarcasm" Phantom, i actually thought the comparisons i made were rather clever and charming.

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  5. I'm not sure whether or not I should be looking forward to your review on Hachiko: A Dog's Story, but in the meantime I'd definitely like to check out this, Microcosmos, and any other whimsical nature flicks you can think of. . . magical meadows are always a plus.

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  6. D8X8 -- HACKIKO is coming, so a little dread about that is healthy. MICROCOSMOS is a superb celebration of the wonder of meadows (somewhere I'm happy to disappear permanently, actually). Give these a shot, too: THE PLAGUE DOGS, WATERSHIP DOWN, LIFE IN THE FREEZER, FLY AWAY HOME, and GATES OF HEAVEN.

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  7. Great recommendation. The voice-over was a bit distracting, but overall a beautiful and mesmerising film. I'd love to see more films that featured playful scampering in meadows and forests.

    Good review BTW. I just discovered your blog and I look forward to reading more.

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