The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

So, what are you to do? Your much-loved twin sister is lying comatosed, transfixed by a hatpin through the head following an unfortunate tennis match. How can she be saved? As far as adventuress Adèle Blanc-Sec is concerned, the only option is to raise from the dead the mummified doctors of Rameses (conveniently relocated to Paris for an exhibition). The main problem though is that the one man who could make this possible, Professeur Ménard, has directed his psychic energy in the wrong direction, causing a ferocious and hungry pterodactyl to hatch from an egg in the Natural History Museum. Paris hardly bats an eyelid.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, directed by Luc Besson, is a delight in every sense. The heroine, played with fire and charm by Louise Bourgoin, is a feisty joy to behold. The adventure may be set in the early years of the 20th century, female explorers may be restricted by corsets and crinolines, but Adèle flies free, the original Lara Croft, beholden to no-one except her motionless twin.

The film is bizarre without a doubt. The pterodactyl may commit the odd faux-pas (namely flying off with the president’s little dog in its jaws), but this is a civilised world in which monsters behave and policemen are obsessed by dining. When the moment comes and Rameses and his mummies are unleashed, it is done with the utmost politeness. In contrast with this, we have scenes in which the ever-hungry policeman in charge attempts to lure the pterodactyl by donning the head of a sheep. You just know that the baby dinosaur is one step ahead.

Based on the graphic novels by Jacques Tardi, Adèle Blanc-Sec comprises a series of stunning tableaux. Glimpses of character are sometimes all we are allowed and yet the overall impression is of a magical pre-WW1 Paris in which anything is possible. What makes you want to believe in it is Louise Bourgoin – a redoubtable heroine for whom the word ‘impossible’ just doesn’t exist. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a treasure!

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