This week, as Hollywood zooms in on the Academy Awards, we’re focusing on the film versions of two very different graphic novels from our archives. Written by the pseudonymous French bureaucrat Abel Lanzac and illustrated by graphic artist Christophe Blain, the sparkling political satire Quai d’Orsay (published in English, wonderfully, as Weapons of Mass Diplomacy) follows a hapless tyro speechwriter as he struggles to appease his mercurial and megalomaniacal boss while negotiating the minister's treacherous, sycophantic entourage. Released in France as Le Minister and in the U.S. as The French Minister, the comic tour-de-force collected kudos at the Sundance and San Sebastián film festivals, as well as three César nominations and one win, delighting audiences with its dancing between the absurdity of bureaucracy and the very real, and sobering, force it wields.
This government gavotte takes a tragic turn in Israeli director Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir. A documentary based on Folman’s hallucinatory memories of his service in the Lebanon war of 1982, and his attempt to reconstruct the massacre at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and his own role in it, the film deploys animation to convey the nightmarish experience of war. Waltz with Bashir picked up a startling fifty-five award nominations, including one for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and won a remarkable forty-two, demonstrating the power of the movies to interrogate and confront the collective amnesia of war. After the successful release of the film, Folman and artist David Polonsky acknowledged the influence of graphic novels by producing Waltz with Bashir in book form.
We wish you a happy weekend, whatever your screen and genre of choice. And we’ll probably take a look at the Oscars broadcast, if only to catch our favorite category (foreign films, of course).