Murray State's Cinema International program finishes its French film series this week with an animated film, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. MSU Cinema International director, Dr. Thérèse St. Paul, visits Sounds Good to discuss this children's tale for all ages and briefly preview next week's film.
"Whoever thinks that the countryside is calm and peaceful is mistaken. In it, we find especially agitated animals: a Fox that thinks it's a chicken, a Rabbit that acts like a stork, and a Duck who wants to replace Father Christmas. If you want to take a vacation, keep driving past this place."
2017 film The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales is an adaptation of a graphic novel by Benjamin Renner, who also wrote and directed an adaptation of Ernest and Celestine (2012). "It's really, as I like to say, a treat for children of all ages," St. Paul begins. "So anybody...adults, as well...can find something to understand and like in this [movie]. In this particular one, which is a lovely 2D hand-drawn cartoon, you really can see stories. There's a subtext."
Adapting children's novels with deeper subtexts into animated films of the same nature is not a new trend in Europe. "The public may be familiar with Asterix and Obelix by Albert Uderzo and Rene Goscinny. They've been adapted into cartoon and also into live film with actual characters. More recently, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, his famous novel also aimed at children, but children of all ages because the subtext is quite strong and very philosophical. That has also been adapted into a film. I think there's a big tradition of cartoon in France and in Belgium, where I'm from. In fact, there's a big studio, a school of art, that works in conjunction with Hollywood and producers of big cartoons," St. Paul explains.
The subtext hidden in Big Bad Fox will likely be interpreted differently by those watching, which will make for an audience-heavy discussion following the screening. "I think it will be nice to see what people picked out...what people actually focused on," St. Paul says.
St. Paul uses familiar American cartoons like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Snoopy to create a point of reference for those unfamiliar with the aforementioned European titles. "This is an animal fable," St. Paul says. "They take on human characteristics. Basically, it's their parallel world."
In this parallel world, animals adapt characteristics that deviate from their typical stereotype. "This is based on the world of a farm. There are outcasts," St. Paul continues. "These are foxes and wolves. The big bad fox is anything but bad. There's the big bad wolf lurking around. The fox ends up protecting little chicks and even having a maternal instinct towards [them]. This becomes very topsy-turvy. It's the world upside-down. It's very hilarious. The hen takes on this strong character...in organizing action against the fox."
"Let's not forget, this movie is under the theme 'women in film.' I thought there was a lot of maternal stereotypes in this movie," St. Paul says. The movie also tends to point a finger "at some issue in modern life or contemporary life. [Big Bad Fox] is no exception. I think it shows issues in today's families...trying to protect children at all costs, even if there are misfits and atypical behaviors. Overall, children need to be protected. That's what comes out of this movie."
The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales will be presented on the third floor of the Curris Center in the Curris Center Theater on Thursday, February 27th and Saturday, February 29th at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. More information for Cinema International, including how to donate to the program online, can be found on the MSU website.
The Big Bad Fox will conclude the Cinema International French film series. Next week's featured film is a Spanish language film based in Chile called Spider Thieves. "It's been sponsored by the Women Faculty Caucus," St. Paul says. "It takes us into the world of a shantytown outside of a big city in Chile, perhaps Santiago, where teenage girls are influenced by the media. They see what they can get really on TV. They decide to go help themselves and go rob high-rise flats. Hence spider thieves, because they become spider women. It's quite interesting."