Attila Marcel


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Hélène Vincent, Guillaume Gouix, and Bernadette Lafont in Attila Marcel
"Chomet captures the way that memories can mislead or turn into a torrent but despite the jokes, he never loses sight of Paul's sadness."

Sylvain Chomet's Atilla Marcel may open with a quote from Marcel Proust about the nature of memory "which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers our hand sometimes to a soothing drug and sometimes to a dangerous poison” and contain a reference to the Remembrance Of Things Past author in both the title (also a character name) and one of the key protagonists - but this playful consideration of recollection has the distinctive light and funny if slightly melancholic touch that we've come to associate with the director of Belleville Rendezvous and The Illusionist.

And though the director is drawing with people as opposed to pencils, there is a strong sense of visual style - from the use of blocks of colour in costumes to a plethora of sight gags - that make this very much in keeping with his earlier work.

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Guillaume Gouix has a wide-eyed innocent charm that makes him look like the long-lost sibling of Elijah Wood's Frodo. He plays Paul, Chomet's central character, a piano ace, rendered silent by childhood trauma that he can't fully remember but which left him an orphan.

Since then, his life in the Paris apartment he shares with his eccentric maiden aunts Anna and Annie (Hélène Vincent and Bernadette Lafont, in one of her last roles) has become a roundelay of the same old tune. His aunts - recalling Chomet's earlier triplets in their similar but not quite identical mannerisms and clothing - dote on him but like him to stick to the groove of playing music for their dance classes while encouraging him, year on year, in his attempts to win a piano playing contest despite his advancing years.

A chance encounter with a hippy neighbour Madame Proust (Anne Le Ny) sees him introduced to the organic chaos of her apartment - just below that of his aunts and yet light years away in terms of its environment, from her vast indoor garden to her bear-like dog and penchant for buns and tea laced with something a little bit special to unleash memories. In Chomet's hands, Paul's memories become a candy coloured cabinet of curiosities, a place where people can break into song or TV show frogs hang out. He captures the way that memories can mislead or turn into a torrent but despite the jokes, he never loses sight of Paul's sadness.

There is more than a touch of Tati and an emphasis on whimsy but unlike his fellow countrymen Michel Gondry and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Chomet doesn't let it run away with the narrative, anchoring the film with strong characters, particularly the wonderfully counter-culture Mme Proust, who are more than mere caricature and bring surprising amounts of emotional gravitas.

Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2014
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A man rendered mute by childhood trauma finds a road into his memories with the help of a neighbour.
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Director: Sylvain Chomet

Writer: Sylvain Chomet

Starring: Guillaume Gouix, Anne Le Ny, Bernadette Lafont, Hélène Vincent, Luis Rego, Fanny Touron, Kea Kaing, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Vincent Deniard, Cyril Couton, Philippe Soutan, Guilhem Pellegrin, Jean-Paul Solal, Jean-Pol Brissart, Elsa Davoine

Year: 2013

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: France


French 2013

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