Under the Radar

A French Take on the Hollywood Blockbuster


What does a Hollywood blockbuster look like if you take Hollywood out of the equation? French producer and director Luc Besson tries to answer that question with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, his 2010 movie finally getting an American release on Blu-ray and DVD.

Set in France in the years before WWI and based on the Jacques Tardi's popular graphic novels originally published in the 1970s, the movie stars Louise Bourgoin as the title character, a hard-living, proto-feminist novelist who's looking for a new kick and turns to investigative journalism. While attempting to revive Egyptian mummies as a way to cure her ill sister, he gets caught up in a crisis involving a newly-hatched pterodactyl terrorizing Paris.


There are some connections to Indiana Jones here: both the original comic series and Spielberg's movies trade on the early 20th-century fascination with ancient Egypt and the rise of museums that set out to collect and classify the natural world.

While Besson is best known here for directing the Bruce Willis sci-fi movie The Fifth Element, he also runs his own shop in France and he's made a mint producing action movies, including The Transporter series starring Jason Statham and the Liam Neeson Taken movies.


What you get here is the French take on a family popcorn movie: there's smoking, a leading lady who reads her mail in the bathtub and lots of adult characters with unclear motives. There's nothing as racy as what you'd see in your average ABC television series, but it's definitely not the sanitized world  you'd see in a PG movie made here.

The movie combines the stories from two different graphic novels and the seams do tend to show a bit. The special effects are impressive and the actors are all having a great time. You can watch the movie dubbed into English with a full 5.1 surround track, but the original French soundtrack is much better if you can handle the subtitles.


The Shout Factory! Blu-ray release comes with a Blu-ray, DVD and a digital copy that can be downloaded direct from the company's website: there's no iTunes or UltraViolet required. There's also a mysterious Director's Cut edition coming later this fall but there's no word as to how that version might be different.

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