BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN | BLU RAY REVIEW & GIVEAWAY

Great news peeps – one of my favourite movies for the year, BELLE ET SEBASTIEN is releasing onto Blu Ray, DVD and Digital from December 10th. This is the ultimate in family films although it does have subs – perhaps a perfect way to introduce a child to art house and foreign films or screw the kids, love it for yourself. The best news about the release is that our friends at ICON HOME ENTERTAINMENT have given us three copies on Blu Ray to giveaway – this is an amazing prize – I will be having one sitting in my cabinet ASAP for multiple viewings. Revisit my review and enter away at the bottom. Good luck!!

ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM JUNE 2014

BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN was my favourite film of the year up until a few days ago when I saw BOYHOOD, so far this year it will have to settle for the number 2 position, still a highly coveted position. I have not seen such a beautiful and light film that was also powerful and heartwarming. As soon as I received the invite to attend this film I knew I would like it. French alps, big fluffy dog, cute kid incapable of melting butter in his mouth, loving people, tale of danger and heartbreak. SOLD. It is like Lassie meets The Sound of Music without singing :). BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN, also known as Belle and Sebastian (not to be confused with the band, although the band did name themselves after the story) is releasing from ICON MOVIES for preview screenings from June 15th followed by official release on July 3rd. It is ONLY playing on limited release at selected art house cinemas – definitely playing at Dendy. It is rated PG and runs for 98mins.

 

BELLE & SEBASTIAN MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | BELLE & SEBASTIAN MOVIE POSTER

 

REVIEW BY JASON KING

BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN aka BELLE AND SEBASTIAN has been around for a very long time. It originated in 1965 as a book by Cécile Aubry, about a young 6yr old boy and his dog, Belle, a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, who live in a village in the French Alps close to the frontier with Italy. Sébastien lives with his adopted grandfather, sister, and brother, as his mother, a Romany, died after giving birth to him while trying to cross the border on Saint Sebastian‘s day.

The same year the book came out they launched a television show of the same name that lasted for 5yrs, all filmed in black and white, the English picked it up and dubbed it and retitled into the English of BELLE AND SEBASTIAN. It should be noted the movie is releasing under this title in Australia but in honour of the work I am maintaining the original name of the film, novel and TV series. The TV series spawned offshoots on its success, SEBASTIAN AMONG MEN and SEBASTIAN AND THE MARY MORGAN and in 1981 the Japanese released it as an anime series called MEIKEN JOLIE, the Japanese titling of BELLE AND SEBASTIAN. This ran for 52 episodes and was broadcast in Japan, France and the US (from 1984). The UK started playing it 1989 and then again in 1991. It appears when the people need them Belle et Sébastian will return (friends of The Dark Knight no doubt) and returned they have in the most epic and largest budget version of this beautiful tale.

 

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BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | BELLE AND SEBASTIAN WITH A HERD OF SHEEP

 

BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN is indeed about a young boy who is seven years old. It is set in the French alps and the scenery is unmatched, it is just flawless, the film takes us back to a different point in time, namely nearing the end of World War 2. Germans have a regular military presence in the small town but this is a different part of WWII, these mountain folk are quite resilient and live through very harsh seasons and on the land, the films representation of WWII is more the mild SOUND OF MUSIC version we would be used to as opposed to the SCHINDLER’S LIST version that was more reality. A group of the townsfolk are sneaking Jewish people over the mountains into Switzerland and the Germans are there to try and find and stop them, but the townsfolk get information from someone on the German side. The military presence is not of much concern to Sébastien, he is a young child and the film is seen through his eyes, eyes that comprehend right and wrong, positive and negative and this is all that drives him when he defends Belle, the wild dog, who the villagers have named “The Beast” as they believe he is eating all the sheep.

He is a mistreated huge dog who is fending for himself in this harsh environment and is a little unsure of correct life etiquette, when him and Sébastien first meet they are both unsure and scared of each other, but all it takes is an act of kindness from each other and these two become an inseparable force of love and family. A bond evermore stronger because of both their needs to have a family, a person to belong to and love unconditionally.

 

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BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | SEBASTIAN BEING QUESTIONED BY THE GERMANS

 

Nicolas Vanier’s direction is a blend of three television series of the story into one movie with a concentration on the WWII inclusion. His documentaries are brilliant works of art mainly about animals and it is pretty evident he was asked to make this film from his work on a documentary called LOUP, a young boy protecting reindeer from wolves. It was also set in freezing remote conditions and this skill of working with animals, extreme conditions and children would be a definite shoe-in for being selected as director for BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN. He also grew up watching the TV show and his addiction to the show from a young age gave him the drive to remain faithful to the story.

Vanier’s collaboration with French cinematographer Eric Guichard and French composer Armand Amar was a superb teaming. Guichard is also used to filming in remote locations having filmed HIMALAYA back in 1999 (along with a huge list of credits) and his way of capturing the village life, the remote location and cleanness of the environment was beautiful to view. And how anyone can pull off a film with young children and a huge mountain dog in this environment is deserving of awards. Armand Amar’s composing is just beautiful and truly heartwarming, it really is music straight from a GHIBLI film. After the trailer at the bottom I have included a YouTube clip of the music from the film with accompanying stills.

 

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BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | CÉSAR (TCHÉKY KARYO) AND SEBASTIAN (FÉLIX BOSSUET)

 

Félix Bossuet is possibly the cutest child to ever be onscreen. he could basically be a serial killer and smile to camera and you would help him bury the bodies. It must have been a gruelling shoot for him having filmed over nine months. Bossuet was selected from over 2400 applicants and 200 auditions. He will not win awards for his acting, and there are a couple of scenes that are saved by his cuteness, but he definitely holds the camera and carries the film on his shoulders. There are a few scenes that are just him and Sébastien mucking around, chasing each other and playing and in those scenes you hear the laughter of a child in childhood playing bliss, those few scenes are worth the price of the ticket alone. That sound is what is good about this human race of ours and our stupidity and badness. Those moments of untainted innocence are what the world is worth fighting for.

Bossuet has a big name as his opposite onscreen, his uncle César is played by long time actor Tchéky Karyo who is a Turkish man raised and considered French and in France he is huge, but he is also well known in Hollywood, playing the bad guy in BAD BOYS, then in THE PATRIOT, KISS OF THE DRAGON, JOAN OF ARC, THE WAY and many more. Karyo’s César is the acting strength onscreen and the drunken character’s arc of redemption is a bonus to the story. He and Bossuet have great onscreen chemistry and you can see they really got along. In an interview Karyo claimed he loved to work with children and animals because “the rapport is all about instinct and spontaneity and listening and trust.”

 

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BELLE ET SÉBASTIEN | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | BELLE AND SEBASTIAN IN THE SNOW

 

My first thoughts after seeing this film is how it was like a GHIBLI film come to life, a film of innocence and beauty with an undercurrent of WWII darkness and malevolance that could erupt at any moment. But to Sébastien he has more to worry about, the life and love of a dog are all that matters. His universe is much smaller than the world around. Just as Ghibli would have done it.

The cinematography of this film demands a cinema screen and the film will not play for long, will barely get any advertising and sadly, none of the big cinema chains will screen it, because like what, it has subtitles and no superheroes in it. I urge you to see this film, enjoy an unhindered film that allows you to feel young again.

 

5 Pops

 

With special thanks to Icon Home Entertainment to win one the 3X BLU RAYS of BELLE & SEBASTIAN you need to either like and share/ retweet this post on Facebook/Twitter/ Google+/ Pinterest/ LinkedIn/ Flipboard or Instagram (all the links to follow us are on the top right of homepage), you then need to leave a comment below stating the answer/s to the following questions:

What is the best children’s movie you have ever seen and why?

If you do not have social media then get with the times – you can still enter, leave your entry below and email me at jking@saltypopcorn.com.au telling me you don’t have social media (you still need to enter on the website).

Prizes will no longer be awarded to first in first served. It will now be a game of skill and selected purely on the thoughts of the judges, said judges being the Salty Kernels.

The prizes will be sent after in the next couple of weeks. Good luck! Oh, and minor housekeeping – huge apologies for overseas readers, this competition is only available to Australian residents.

 

MOVIE TRAILER:

 

EXCERPTS FROM THE SOUNDTRACK BY ARMAND AMAR WITH MOVIE STILLS: