Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is a loose interpretation of Jacques Tardi’s historical comic book of the same name. Staring Louise Bourgoin in the role of adventurer and writer Adele Blanc-Sec, the plot follows Blanc-Sec to Egypt in 1912 where she attempts to bring back to Paris the mummy of Ramesses II’s personal doctor so that he can be bought back to life by her friend, Professor Esp√©randieu in order to save her sisters life. The reason for Blanc-Sec’s sisters injuries are that during a tennis match, she fell onto a hat pin which went right through her head. If all this isn’t strange enough, while Blanc-Sec is in Egypt, Professor Esp√©randieu resurrects a 130 million year old Pterodactyl that is hatched from an egg in a Paris Museum.

As you can probably guess from the plot, this film is absolutely bonkers. While every effort is made to maintain the historical accuracy for most of the film, the addition of flying Dinosaurs and 5,000 year old Egyptian nuclear physicists can only be described as silly, but in a good way. The film has the look of an early silent movie with makeup and prosthetics that look very similar to what was used in the 1910s. Actors have deep eye shadow and lines drawn on their faces to indicate wrinkles and the costume is accurate of the period. This early twentieth century look is complemented well by the up to date computer graphics of the Pterodactyl and Egyptian mummies. While these effects are not incredibly realistic, they are pleasing to look at.

Beautiful period makeup

The script is fast paced and snappy with most of the best lines going to Bourgoin as Blanc-sec. The best line of the whole film is left to the mummy of Ramesses II however as he looks at the Louvre and suggests someone should build a pyramid in its courtyard. Bourgoin is also the standout as far as the acting is concerned. She is irresistible on screen, playing a kind of female Indiana Jones but with even more attitude. She completely controls every scene she is in and I was surprised to learn that this was one of her first roles. She appears very comfortable on screen. She manages to remain very beautiful and ladylike while fighting all who get in her way.

Bourgoin is stunning as Adele Blanc-Sec
The fast cutting and snappy dialogue help the film to push along through some of its less exciting scenes, giving the film a frenetic feel. It is also funny in places though I felt that it lost some of its humour in translation. As the film is so fast paced at times, subtitles flash on and off the screen in an instant, sometimes leaving no time to take in and enjoy what is being said.

Overall I enjoyed this odd, French blockbuster. It was one of the strangest films I’ve seen in a while. The makeup and costumes were satisfying to look at and Louise Bourgoin is surely a star in the making.



  1. Great review Tom. I like your comment comparing the visuals of this to an early silent movie. I'm surprised this didn't get a wider release because it would have done quite well here in the states.