Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYICFF ’15: Moomins on the Riviera
grace and naiveté, the oblivious Moomins face the perils of pirates and French snobbery.
Naturally, the pirates are much more pleasant to deal with. Nevertheless, some
of the Moomins will rather enjoy living the high life in the south of France,
at least until the bills come due in Xavier Picard’s Moomins on the Riviera (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 New York International Children’s Film Festival.
the film, Moominpappa says it straight out—they are not hippopotamuses. It is
not clear just what they are, but they are clearly some sort of anthropomorphic
animal. Already well known from Tove Jansson’s children’s book series, the
Moomins made the transition to the funny pages, but they were abruptly canceled
by a leftwing Finnish paper that found them too bourgeoisie. Subsequently, the
comic strip was revived by a British syndicate. Eventually, the Moomins were adapted
as a Japanese anime series, so they are quite well-established internationally,
even though they never cracked the U.S. market. Still, there is no reason American
kid will not appreciate a family of talking animals, ambiguous though their
species might be.
is pretty okay in the vaguely Northern European Moominvalley as the film opens.
Young Moomin shyly pursues his flirty neighbor Snorkmaiden, when not out
fishing with his friend Snufkin. When a pirate ship founders on the rocky
shoals, the Moomins mobilize to salvage what they can. Of course, they gather
up all the books and tropical seeds, neglecting the pirates’ treasure. Largely
on impulse, the Moomins and Snorkmaiden soon set off on a nautical expedition
of their own, rather irresponsibly sailing into a white squall. After a brief
detour, the Moomins land on the Riviera, which the star-struck Snorkmaiden has
always dreamed of visiting. She and Moominpappa soon fall in with the moneyed smart
set, but Moomin and Moominmamma are uncomfortable with the shallow, indulgent
animation of Picard’s Moomins is
nowhere near as lush as a Studio Ghibli release or the work of GKIDS associated
filmmakers like Tomm Moore or Michel Ocelot, but that is somewhat by design.
The new Moomins feature deliberately evokes the feel of the vintage comic strip.
In fact, that clean look is appealingly classy and well-suited to the Riviera
Picard and a battery of four co-screenwriters faithfully adapted a story arc
from the original newspaper strips, the film’s narrative is not exactly
earth-shaking stuff. However, there are a lot of clever bits of business thrown
in for seasoning. Moomin is also a decent sort of chap and the be-true-to-yourself-and-beware-of-phonies
message should appeal to parents.
Despite skewing towards younger audiences, Riviera has a sophisticated vibe older
viewers will appreciate. Considering it recently set the Finland record for
two-week box office gross, it is probably safe to assume there will be more
Moomins to come. Pleasantly upbeat and life affirming, Moomins on the Riviera is recommended for kids 5-10 (as per the
festival’s guidelines) and animation fans who will enjoy its gentle quirks. It
screens again this Sunday (3/22) at the IFC Center, as part of this year’s
Labels: Animated films, NYICFF '15