By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Fantasia Film Festival 2021
Aug 08, 2021 3:00 PM
Aug 10, 2021 9:00 AM
Coming to VOD Sept 21 & Home Video Oct 5th
Shout! Factory Kids
Joann Sfar’s adaptation of his Little Vampire book series to film is an amazingly well thought out story. Many people have adapted the original series by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg to either a movie (there were two prior) or a book, and none of them really gained traction till now. In this filmmaker’s case, the titular protagonist can no longer grow up. He wants to go to school in the graphic novel editions. This coming of age tale teaches us viewers something else–the value of friendship. This artist’s version takes a few cues from Casper the Friendly Ghost, and goes further because of its rich phantasmagorical mythology.
One unusual aspect in this property is that certain characters don’t have a proper name. The Captain of the Dead (Jean-Paul Rouve) leads this clan. He also protects them from Gibbous–whose face is like the crescent moon. He’s hardly a man and there are times where I think he’s a harbinger of Death. In the animated movie, these two figures desire Pandora, and I’m sure that name is taken from a certain Greek myth.
The title character (voiced by Louise Lacoste) has forgotten why he and his mom live in this closeted community. In the intro animated sequuence, we learn they were chased throughout the centuries. The Captain wasn’t always kind, but he proves he can love like the movie, The Beauty and the Beast. The previous films that were made go off in a very different direction, and they’re not like the books to which I’ll have to now track down. Sfar’s version adds a bit of that mystique from the age of piracy. The Captain is like Captain Jack.
Little Vampire’s origins is explained. After many centuries have passes, we find that he hates the confines of home. Whereever that happens to be in Southern France, he knows he’s not alone. One night, he sneaks out and explores. Pretty soon, he forms a relationship with a human, Michel (Claire de la Rüe du Can), and their rapport is charming. Both live under unusual circumstances. The vampire has cousins who don’t amount to much and the human just doesn’t have any friends at all.
I want to compare the fantasy world in Sfar’s work to GeGeGe no Kitarō over The Nightmare Before Christmas because of the art style. The mythos are truly far more fantastic with the manga than Tim Burton’s work, despite having a prerequisite Disney pet, a pug named Phantomato who offers the best laughs.
What makes this story worthwhil is that no one is truly evil. Gibbous was a product of the times before he was transformed. He was a misguided prince, a romantic, who thinks love can be accepted on demand. Instead of having the God of the Depths (Nothingness) come back for a big finale, just how this film ends is certainly one for the feminist movement. Women shouldn’t be treated like property, and even the Captain of the Dead feels guilty because of what he fixed upon the mast of his floating ship.
I’d love it if Sfar can offer all-new adventures in addition to what he’s published in the past. The seven book series he’s done is hard to track down, and I don’t think all of them have been translated over for international sales. The first volume isn’t too hard to find. I’ll have to purchase this volume from Amazon. According to IMDB, he created a television series about this character too. As that didn’t gain international traction, the movie will lead the charge with its a wider release this fall.
4 Stars out of 5
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