Friday, July 31, 2015

Film on Friday #39 - Belle and Sebastian

When I saw this new release from Film Movement - Belle and Sebastian - I just knew it was one I had to watch. As with all Film Movement releases, it was a featured film at many festivals and was the Grand Prize Best Film at the New York International Children's Film Festival.

My now twenty something son absolutely adored the cartoon series about a boy and his giant white dog. We had a very large white Alaskan Malamute at the time and I know he played out many adventures with Murphy in the backyard.

The film takes place in 1943 in the French Alps. Sebastian lives with an old shepherd named Cesar.  The village is worried about a 'beast' who has been attacking the local flocks and have vowed to kill it. Young Sebastian comes across the dog the villagers are seeking and instead, befriends it. The dog becomes Sebastian's protector. For there is danger in the village - the Nazis have occupied it - and the villagers are moving Jewish refugees across the border into Switzerland. You guessed it - Belle and Sebastian are a part of that.

This is such a great movie for families. There's danger, adventure and of course a dog who is so very special. Who wouldn't want to imagine themselves as Sebastian? Prepare to have your heartstrings tugged. (For younger viewers, please take not that there are some some animals killed as part of the story.)

The movie is worth watching for the scenery alone - the views and vistas of the French Alps are absolutely magnificent. The scenes shot in the snow are real - and just as magnificent.

Young Félix Bossuet is such a natural actor. His lines were believable and his facial and body language also spoke volumes. It was easy to believe him as just a boy and his dog. Tchéky Karyo plays 'grandfather' Cesar. I had literally just watched him in the television series The Missing and enjoyed his performance. I thought he did a great job in this film as well. And a review of the actors would not be complete without mentioning the dog - well trained and perfect casting!

Families watching with children will likely choose the English dubbing. It seemed a bit off to me in the beginning, but wasn't badly done at all. I did find that of the dialogue could have used a bit more editing before being used  - some of the phrases and language just didn't seem to fit the time and place. I chose to watch with the subtitles instead. There's a 30 minute plus feature included on the making of the film as well.

Director Nicolas Vanier did a great job of bringing Cecile Aubry's classic book to the screen and a new audience. And now I'm going to pass my copy on to that twenty-something son....

France/99 minutes/Original French with English subtitles/ English

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