You wouldn’t expect that a French animation about walking-and-talking bears could possess both depth and intelligence, plus it’s so fun to watch.
Dir. Lorenzo Mattotti
1982 | France | Animation/Adventure | 82 mins | 1.85:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be PG
Cast: Leila Bekhti, Thomas Bidegain, Jean-Claude Carriere
Plot: To rescue his missing son, Leonce the King of Bears, invade the land of men with the help of his clan.
Awards: Nom. for Un Certain Regard Award (Cannes)
International Sales: Pathe
Subject Matter: Light
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Although the higher-profile Netflix title, I Lost My Body (2019), seemed to have garnered more attention than any other French-language animated feature last year, this under-the-radar work is even better.
Its long title, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, is already intriguing, suggesting a kind of historio-political thing going on. And there is… in the realm of walking-and-talking bears, where it is adapted from the 1945 Italian children’s book by Dino Buzzati.
In this fictional war between bears… and humans (well, who else would have started it?), there are a number of casualties on both sides, some of them dying in terrible ways.
Yet, the tone of Lorenzo Mattotti’s work is surprisingly light, and for the better, because the entire animation is told—and performed—as a ‘myth’. For a start, you wouldn’t expect that an animation about bears versus humans could, well, bear so much depth and intelligence.
While kids should enjoy it because it is fun to watch, adults will likely appreciate its themes of family, injustice and power plays. It is also indirectly a social commentary on the ills of the capitalist, global order, where ‘popular’ culture and lifestyle dictate how one should live, and thus forgetting ‘where we came from’.
Creatively told in a not-so-conventional two-act structure, Bears’ Invasion is also a distinctively old-school Euro-style animation, with retro-fittings not dissimilar to, say, the works of Sylvain Chomet.
Competed at the Cannes Film Festival under the Un Certain Regard category, Mattotti’s work is imaginative yet also possessing an acute sense of morality. Worth a pop.