A Francophile's Take on Tintin

A Francophile's Take on Tintin

I went to see Tintin in 3D a few days ago - in itself, there's nothing unique about that, but I am both a Francophile living in England and a die-hard fan of Tintin, so I thought I would write my views about this new take on my childhood hero.

The first thing to say is that I absolutely loved it, and was literally spell bound from the get go. I immediately felt transported into the non-stop, roller coater adventures of Tintin that I know so well. The only weird things that took me a little while to get used to was the use of the English language and the fact that you call the little dog Snowy – that’s simply not right! For me, he will always be ‘Milou’.

I was both excited at the prospect of seeing the film and quite prepared to be very disappointed. What I didn’t expect is that I would be enthralled. I hadn’t given much thought to who had been working on this movie, but clearly, the team behind it must have been real fans of Tintin. The characters are not only true to Hergé’s stories, the film itself is faithful to the very unique “look” that he created in his books and also to the incredibly funny dialogue. As for the use of motion capture, it is totally inspired! For me, that’s actually what makes the film so special. All at once it manages to make the whole thing seem real and yet totally like the cartoon strips. Simply genius. 

I have a feeling though that this film is not going to be a great success in the US. While watching it, I was struck again by the fact that Tintin doesn’t look, sound or act like any of the comic book heroes that the American public is so fond of. In fact, he is quite an “anti-hero”: a bit square, a bit boring, a bit too serious. The real heroes are Milou and Captain Haddock – who always seem to have both the best lines and the most fun. I am afraid that this odd cast of characters may not live up to the our US friends’ idea of comic book adventure – they have no super powers, they don’t get into epic fights, they don’t wear capes, tight lycra shorts or masks, there are no sexy women to be saved, and there are no super nasty villains - just normal day to day crooks.

As a small time girl from a tiny French village, Tintin always appeared to me like a wonderful adventure that took you to places around the world that you could only dream about. I never actually thought that there was any sub-text in the story line: it was just plain, uncomplicated fun. It appears I was quite wrong about that… 

Watching the film spurred me on to find out more about Hergé, and I spent last Sunday watching a couple of very insightful documentaries about him – both of which I highly recommend. 

One was a BBC program called “Tintin and Me”, which unfortunately is not available on iPlayer and which makes a bit of a play on words of the other, much more serious and much more watchable documentary called “Tintin et Moi” (a direct translation of Tintin and Me). This one you can still view on the Internet on various sites and it is an incredibly poignant, at times disturbing and painful view into the life of a very troubled man.

I had no idea that so much of Tintin’s stories was actually quite a political take on the world at the time – all very much influenced by the wishes of the Abbé Wallez who was a priest, Hergé’s mentor and the editor of “Le Vingtième Siècle” – whose youth supplement, Le Petit Vingtième, first published The Adventures of Tintin. 

It appears that Hergé was also very influenced by a man called Robert Sexé – who funnily enough comes from a place called La Roche-sur-Yon in France, which is only down the road from where I grew up. Not only did Sexé, kind of looked like Tintin, he was a photojournalist who went around the world (the old USSR in particular) on his motorcycle. And weren’t Tintin’s first adventures actually in Russia?... I seem to remember so. Pity I don’t have a copy of this very rare first comic book, I think I would have enjoyed reading it again while watching’ Sexé’s photos.

3 Comments Isabelle Duarte

Posted by
Isabelle Duarte
Fri 18 Nov 2011: 10:20am

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  • Toby Young:

    Max, I am happy to forgive your pedantry ; )

  • Max Woodhead:

    Umm I hate to be pedantic Toby but Tintin is meant to be Belgian not French. Je sues resole. : ) But I agree the film was awesome! Amazing CG, inspirational stuff.

  • Toby Young:

    I'm pleased that the Anglophiles did not desecrate this most revered of hero Francais for you. Interesting observation about the American idea of heroes and villains we will see if the box office figures reflect your suspicions. I will read up more about Hergé as I think he sounds like an interesting character.

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