It isn’t too often that a cartoon challenges an adult audience to mull over mortality and the concept of an afterlife, but Jean-Christophe Dessaint’s The Day of the Crows does just that. An animated film with a very grownup message, this adaptation of the Jean-Francois Beauchemin novel, Le Jour des Corneilles, ranks among an eclectic lineup in this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival. Dessaint has crafted an aesthetically beautiful film with illustrations so evocative as to make you wonder why bigger studios are dead set on 3-D animation. The fablelike story follows a young boy and his father, who lead a wild existence in a forest isolated from human society; fiercely protective and furtive about his past, the father warns his son of the dangers that lay outside the woods. But one day an accident forces the son to venture out of the familiar confines of the forest to seek help in a nearby town.
The young boy’s first encounter with civilized society paints a striking contrast to the mystical, primitive world to which he is accustomed. In one memorable scene, he explains to his new friend, Manon, that he can talk to ghosts. “Don’t you talk to those in the world beyond?” he asks the awestruck Manon. The young boy’s unusual worldview suggests that Manon’s seemingly rational belief that the living cannot communicate with the dead may be more of a social construct than anything else. After all, the boy developed his beliefs completely apart from society, and therefore takes his cues from what nature tells him. These are heady ideas for an animated flick, but the film’s adventurous spirit and celebration of love should appeal to both adults and children over 8-years-old.
The Day of the Crows opens Saturday, March 9th at the Film Society Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. For more information, please visit http://www.filmlinc.com/films/series/rendez-vous-with-french-cinema.