About Princes et princesses

Princes et princesses, though released to cinemas a couple of years after Kirikou, is in fact a much older creation of Michel Ocelot — the film is a compiled from a series of 8 12-minute episodes, known collectively as Ciné si or "Cinema If", which were animated back in 1987 by studio La Fabrique. With the French public clamouring for another Kirikou, the director looked back on this project as something deserving a second outing, and thus selected the best 6 of the original 8 to be re-mastered, edited together and reformatted into a widescreen feature film by Les Armateurs. While one might presume this to be a cheap cashing in on the success of Kirikou, such cynicism is quickly dispelled when one experiences the magic of these stories, which given the setting are better suited to projection than a TV screen.

It doesn't take a genius to hypothesise that, from the very beginning, Ciné si/Princes et princesses is a possible tribute to Lotte Reiniger. The filigree metalwork of La Princesse des diamants is instantly reminiscent of Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, but after this the differences become more apparent. Ocelot takes us across time and space to ancient Egypt, Edo Japan, and most surprisingly of all, a retro sci-fi vision of the year 3000 which has more in common with Protazanov's Aelita than anything H.C. Andersen could have written. And most of all, there is Ocelot's ability to create such varied and surprising narratives without ever fully leaving the confines of the tale genre.

Though they have their differences, and are no the worse for them, Ocelot is in several ways the natural successor to Reiniger — not least among these is their ability to appeal just as much to unassuming children as they have done to avant-garde artists. And while she used silent films to express her nostalgia for the shadow-puppet theatre, he can now use modern animation techniques to express his own nostalgia for her silent silhouette films.

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