It’s nearly summer. The holidays have come and gone, and people along the dreary snow-covered streets of Montreal have more or less gone back to regular life. Most of us have gone back to work after honoring the age-old tradition of movie watching as a family unit, which tends to bring its own lot of bickering and conflict. But for decades now Tele-Quebec, our provincial never-watched state-sponsored channel, has entertained us with Ciné-Cadeau, a holiday-long marathon of old French animated movies I sure as hell have come to know by heart. In order to share the love, I have put together a couple of extracts from the best of these animated classics.
The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976)
This is actually my favorite movie of all time, featuring an original story by comic book author René Gosciny. We follow Asterix and his pal Obelix, tasked by Caesar himself to prove that they are indeed, “irreducible” — half-gods, in other words. They must complete a new updated series of tasks as Hercules did in the olden times. This movie is relentless, constantly funny, and at times surreal (especially on the Island of Pleasures and the Cave). The entire thing is freely available in English on YouTube, so find the time to watch it. It’s certainly a delight.
Lucky Luke – Daisy Town (1971)
Another René Gosciny masterpiece, this is the movie to watch if you are at least mildly intrigued in finding out how France thinks about America. It’s a wacky western featuring Lucky Luke, who of course always shoots faster than his own shadow, yet never kills anyone. In this episode, in which a lawless town on the developing frontier finds itself caught in a war with the natives. The residents ask for Lucky Luke’s help to police the town as the Daltons gang try to take over. The phenomenal sound effects and never-ending smoking have aged this movie beautifully. It takes almost ten minutes for the plot to actually get going, but it’s warm, cozy fun all the way, if a bit slow paced. Note the phenomenal sequence at the fifty minute mark, where the movie gets incredibly racist in it’s oh-so Drench portrayal of Native Americans. At least they didn’t make them stupid — just stereotypical.
Tintin and the Lake of the Sharks (1972)
I never really gave a shit about Tintin; he always was the boring one. This episode, however, features a lot of somewhat funny secondary characters and the best villain of all, Raspoutine, Hergé’s clumsy homage to Hugo Pratt’s phenomenal comic book version of the mad monk. In this movie, he steals another one of Professor Tournesol’s inventions, which he plans to use to steal and replicate great works of art. There are also two insufferable kids (don’t ask). This movie, while featuring almost no women, is still a lot less creepy than most of Tintin’s adventures in foreign lands with young local boys. I hesitated to put this entry here, as I do believe even the worst Asterix movie (I’m looking at you, Asterix and the Indians) is a hundred times more entertaining. Still, it’s a classic.
The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
[Available on Netflix.]
I remember absolutely loving this film when it came out, probably due to the full effect of gorgeous animation on a humongous cinema screen. On repeat viewings, it does tire out a bit; nevertheless, it’s a fun, quirky story about a little old lady and her dog trying to find her son, who disappeared while cycling the Tour de France. The animation is of phenomenal quality, featuring extreme attention to details and a coherent, if extravagant style of its own. The soundtrack is also amazing, almost winning an Academy Award, but losing to one of the most boring songs of all time: Return of the King‘s “Into the West.”
Asterix and Cleopatra (1968)
Certainly my second favorite movie after The Twelve Tasks, this is an incredibly fun adventure which was later rebooted as the surprisingly funny Asterix: Mission Cleopatra. It features not only our main cast of Gallic heroes, but many iconic original characters: Amonbofis the evil architect, Cleopatra the stunning and ruthless queen, and her dumb lion. Here, a wager is disputed between Caesar and his lover, Cleopatra, as he challenges her to build a great new palace in a short amount of time. Somehow, the Gauls are recruited to help in the construction, and craziness ensues. This movie also features many of the best songs in the series, most notably “When You’re Eating Well You’re Well” and “Specialized Arsenic Cake.”
Bonus: Tarzoon, Shame of the Jungle (1975)
Featuring full-on female nudity, stupid puns, and dumb sex jokes, this is certainly not a kid’s movie presented on Cine-Cadeau, but it’s another classic of a bygone era. Here, our slightly mentally handicapped hero’s girlfriend gets kidnapped by walking penises, and it’s up to Tarzoon to find and bring her back home. It makes fun of the many racist, sexist, and weird undercurrents of French animation, most notably a stab at Hergé’s infamous Tintin in Congo at the 19:49 mark. To be honest, I find it almost unwatchable, but it’s certainly worth fast-forwarding through. Other moments to look out for: an army of penises form a Nazi swastika (46:05), flesh-eating cannibal pigmys decapitate an ostrich (33:04), and an elephant engages in anal sex (1:03:12). Yep. “Shame.”
Article by contributor Charles-Andre Lavellee.