|Title: The Canterville Ghost (Le Fantôme de Canterville)|
|Director: Yann Samuell|
|Screenwriter: Yann Samuell|
|Actors: Audrey Fleurot, Michaël Youn, Michèle Laroque|
|Elements: Drama, Fantasy|
Ghost Aliénor of Canterville, a brazen and brilliant 18th-century noblewoman and feminist ahead of her time, soul damned to the earth because she would yield to no man, has been ever since haunting her isolated old castle in the countryside in Brittany. Helped by her faithful footman Gwilherm, she has been scaring away any new-comer for hundreds of years.
But when the Otis family moves in from Paris, Aliénor of Canterville fails for the first time in her duty. The kids make fun of her, and the parents completely ignore her! Only Virginia, the 16-year old teen of the family, is moved by her history and will help her break the spell weighing on her.
As implied by the title, Le Fantôme de Canterville is the most recent—and in the same lines, most modern—French adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost.
The film unfolds in the 1950s with the eponymous phantom, Aliénor de Canterville, chasing out yet another potential family from moving into the castle. Her castle. She smiles grimly.
Cut to present day. A teenager receives news that her parents have decided to move the family out of Paris and bought a sprawling castle out in the middle of nowhere. (Who just ups and buys a castle out of the blue? I digress). Despite all of her best efforts, Aliénor finds that she is yet an obsolete phantom of the past, bested by the terror that is a family hardened by city life, modern technology and lack of superstition and interaction.
So sets the tone of the movie. The sharp humour takes some time to get going, but when it finally does, constant raucous laughter filled the hall.
Like the eponymous phantom, Le Fantôme de Canterville is smartly crafted with a solid plot that is geared towards the young and youthful. Viewers are treated to bright, vivid and saturated scenes from the start, much like the giddy end of a particularly inventive theme ride. The cinematography is visually stunning, full of sweeping shots of the landscape and intricately designed costumes.
Despite the visual feast, the film excels best during scenes where the outstanding cast is given a breather from exaggerated reactions to fully embody their characters. It brings into sharp focus one of the best scenes in the movie which brings together the titular character and the temperamentally similar teenage heroine to embody one another in a bid to save not only the castle, but themselves from ruin.
Le Fantôme de Canterville offers a thoughtful look into feminism–coinciding well with International Women’s Day–as embodied by the two female leads. Aliénor is shown to be quite the strategic leader in her living days, not only as the lady of the castle, but also as one of the best fighters in town. Simply put, she beats the men at their own game. In that, we are encouraged to laud her physical achievements as being key to her characterization.
However, her strength is better portrayed through a scene in which she teaches the brash and crafty—decidedly unfeminine—teenage heroine Virginia to embrace the grace and beauty of being a lady, a scene which is both enthralling in its choreography and plot significance, through showing that she is not just a lady by name.
The story is as much Virginia’s as Aliénor’s, whose growth may seem definitively heavy-handed. Out of the three leads, the junior Canterville is the one who is left to serve primarily as comic relief and convenient plot device.
This is a well-rounded movie that offers state-of-the-art CGI—one of the first of its kind in French cinema—while keeping younger viewers captivated and remaining fast and funny enough to keep older viewers entertained.
Thank you to the kind folks over at Alliance Francaise de Singapour for the invites to the World Premiere of Le Fantôme de Canterville in exchange for an honest review. Furnished with English subtitles, this movie shouldn’t be a problem for predominantly-English speaking folks to understand.
The Francophonie Festival runs from 10-22 March 2016, with a roundup of movies, exhibitions and concerts. For more details, please head on over to the Alliance française website.