A wild child (voice of Lorànt Deutsch, "You Will Be My Son") lives in the woods with his bear-like father (voice of Jean Reno, "The Professional") in a ramshackle hut, hunting and fishing for food and conversing with the spirits of the dead, including his mother who died giving birth to him. He's been raised to fear the nothing beyond the forest, but when his father's seriously injured, the young boy's convinced by a spirit to bring him into town, where he'll gradually learn his history and have his life changed forever on "The Day of the Crows."
I always looked forward to French director Claude Chabrol's latest as part of the Museum of Fine Art's French Film festival, but his death in 2010 put a stop to that. Well, Chabrol fans have a unique last hurrah as the 'Gallic Hitchcock' voices this film's hero, the wise and compassionate doctor.
This is an odd story (Amnaine Taffin adapted from Jean-François Beauchemin's novel) about a wild child, the evils of small town prejudice and gossip and love that crosses from the living to the dead presented in a style heavily influenced by the work of Hayao Miyazaki set against the backdrop of an unspecified war. There are lessons on respecting life and learning from historical mistakes, although the film may be just a little too violent for the very young.
The son is astonished when he first sets eyes on a village he never knew existed. The local doctor (Chabrol) has his hands full, his hospital full of war wounded. He recognizes the huge man the young boy brings to him and ensures he will be taken care of. The doctor prods his daughter, Manon (voice of Isabelle Carré, "Romantics Anonymous"), to host the wild boy, who's smell is the first thing which must be attended to.
Manon quickly comes to like the uncivilized child, but there is unrest led by Madame Ronce (voice of Chantal Neuwirth, "A Very Long Engagement"), who wants to see the father expelled from their midst. The son blossoms under Manon's care, soon seeing the beauty in what previously had only been prey (this is one of the film's oddities, given that all of the spirit creatures are clothed human figures with the heads of various animals, his mother a doe). But Manon is horrified by the behavior of the boy's father and when he is well enough to return to the woods, his son becomes intent on finding his father's 'love,' his inexperience with the emotion leading him to look for a physical embodiment. When he fixes the broken wing of a crow and protects it from his father, the birds become his connection back to Manon. The film circles around, foreshadowings in its early scenes coming to fruition.
"The Day of the Crows" is beautifully animated, all except for its protagonist whose visualization is out of whack and whose vocalization is pitched way too low. Reno makes the father a scary beast of a man, all grunts and shouts, who may scare more than Manon. Chabrol inhabits the doctor with the type of character who would be beloved by all but a town's most venal citizens.
Robin gives "The Day of the Crows" a B-.
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