Belle & Sebastian

"Belle et Sébastien" (English captions) was submitted by France for the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival. We had young invitees from six local schools in attendance and that always enhances my experience. How perfectly splendid that their first taste of the festival should be this winning story about a boy and his dog! They could relate to his point of view, the story is captivating, there is plenty of humor, we saw white-knuckle drama, and everyone had plenty of folks to root for...always a plus!

Nicolas Vanier from Senegal directed this story about an orphan boy raised in the Pyrenees, the impossibly beautiful mountain range with France to the north and Spain to the south. The cinematography by Eric Guichard is breathtaking! We loved the marmots, rabbits, boar, elk, wolves and chamois, particularly the baby chamois that is stranded after its mother is shot in those thrilling opening scenes.

Here is the cast:
  • Tchéky Karyo plays César, a grouchy old mountain man who drinks too much. He wants to shoot la bête that has been killing sheep. He's sure the beast is a feral dog who escaped its brutal master in a neighboring village.
  • Félix Bossuet is Sébastien, an adventurous six-year-old boy; our little hero has been told that his absent mother has gone to America, "just over those mountains." He befriends that stray dog and does not think she kills sheep. BTW, she is a Great Pyrenees and that breed is well known for its fearless protection of its flocks.
  • Dimitri Storoge is Docteur Guillaume, the heroic Resistance fighter who guides Jewish refugees on their way to the Swiss border. (He can also fix a dog that has been shot!)
  • Andreas Pietschmann brings us Lieutenant Peter, a handsome German officer we come to fear...but he really admires that lovely young woman in the bakery where he demands a weekly supply of bread for his troops.
  • Margaux Châtelier makes an irresistible Angélina, who tells the German officer, "Soldiers fight wars, they don't plunder bakeries!" She also knows her way around those mountains.
This inspiring story is a charming homage to the live-action films of Disney, but I could see that the pulse-pounding World War II subplot thrilled those kids in the audience today. Me too!!!