Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci’s animated April and the Extraordinary World is a rollicking, old-timey pulp adventure full of chases and the occasional cliffhanger.
The picture is set in an alternate history in which the mysterious disappearance of scientists in the late nineteenth century has resulted in a gray, polluted Paris running on coal and steam rather than still-untamed electricity, and where most scientific advances are in chemistry.
In 1941, teenage April (Marion Cotillard) and her talking cat, Darwin (Philippe Katerine), continue the work of her vanished-scientist parents to create an invincibility serum, while the bumbling, Javert-esque police inspector Pizoni (Bouli Lanners) pursues them. And then things get weird.
April and the Extraordinary World is based on the work and style of French graphic novelist Jacques Tardi, though not any specific book, and the script is by the creators of the original Snowpiercer graphic novel; the result is an all-too-rare example of steampunk done right — which also acknowledges that, however pretty such industrial imagery might seem from afar, actually living in such a world would be kind of horrible. (Watch for the Dalek cameo.) Perhaps most importantly, the cat talks! And though there’s a good story reason for it, like many other things in the film, it’s downright extraordinary.
April and the Extraordinary World
Directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci
Opens March 25, IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 22, 2016