However, like most countries, it is only the best of their content that makes it beyond the domestic market, which is probably a good thing because, as multi-hyphenate filmmaker Julie Delpy said, "95% of French cinema is shit". Luckily we mostly get to see the other 5%.
Based on a comic, it is the story of a popular novelist who finds herself involved in extraordinary adventures in order to save her sister, who had an unusual accident during a tennis match. Set in the early 1900s, it starts with quirky voiceover and the sweeping shots we are familiar with in Jeunet's films. The opening of this film involves ancient magic, ladies of the night, love-struck suitors, hatching pterodactyl eggs, and the occasional red herring.
This unlikely combination does actually make sense as the film unfolds into a cracking comedy adventure. While some people have called it a female Indiana Jones, it is much closer in tone and content to The Mummy, with Adele being more of an amalgam of Brendan Fraser's Rick O'Connell and Rachel Weisz's Evy Carnahan. The parallel is also helped by the fact that the film involves mummies, although not as malicious, and other ancient Egyptian shenanigans, but with more humour. Yes, that's right, a French film with humour, and one that doesn't rely on the usual French default toilet humour for its laughs, with a particularly funny prison escape scene. And being a French film it does still manage to slip in a nude scene with our attractive heroine in the bath for some unexplained reason.
Being a subtitled film it feels much closer to its comic book roots because you have to read the dialogue, and this is further enhanced by the third person voiceover, some interesting framing choices and the aforementioned magical reality. Besson has certainly captured the spirit of both the comic and the era with some choice casting and a healthy dose of prosthetics, set dressing and special effects.
Like the Dylan Dog comics from Italy (recently made into a movie starring Brandon Routh, but with no UK release date as yet), Adele may not be as familiar to UK audiences as the big DC and Marvel comic heroes, but this French offering is equally entertaining, and comes with a certain amount of art house cred along with enough action to please the fan boys and girls, as well as a heroine who is very easy on the eye.
The DVD/Blu-ray comes with a better-than-your-average-Hollywood making-of and lengthy interviews with Besson and the cast, along with a great animated music clip.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is out now on DVD and Blu-ray and available from Play and all good retailers.