A revealing docu about late Belgian artist Herge (born Georges Remi), creator of the massively successful "The Adventures of Tintin" comicbooks, "Tintin and I" comes with instant appeal on the strength of its title alone, especially in Europe. Pic could have short but sturdy theatrical legs before screening on its many TV investors' webs.

A revealing docu about late Belgian artist Herge (born Georges Remi), creator of the massively successful “The Adventures of Tintin” comicbooks, “Tintin and I” comes with instant appeal on the strength of its title alone, especially in Europe. The fact it’s also very well made — fascinating even for viewers not obsessed with the cowlicked character and his creator — is to the credit of helmer Anders Hogsbro Ostergaard and journalist Numa Sadoul. The latter’s original, 30-year-old interviews with Herge form docu’s foundation. Pic could have short but sturdy theatrical legs before screening on its many TV investors’ webs.

The “Tintin” comics, barely read in the U.S., were written over a 47-year period, starting in 1929 with a strip in the children’s supplement to Brussels-based paper le Vingtieme Siecle (the Twentieth Century). As books, they comprise 23 tomes, which have been translated into 58 different languages.

Although superficially innocent, boys’ adventure stuff — wherein the hero travels the globe and beyond to right wrongs, accompanied by loyal mutt Snowy and grouchy sidekick Captain Haddock, among others — the elegantly drawn strip and its merchandising spinoffs (including a handful of films and cartoon adaptations) are much loved by millions worldwide. Steven Spielberg was reported to be pursuing rights for an animated version a few years ago.

“Tintin and I,” partly produced by the franchise’s rights-holders Moulinsart, is built around Sadoul’s frank interviews with Herge, conducted over several days in October 1971. These later formed the basis of an authorized book Herge censored, having become reticent about the personal revelations he made for Sadoul’s tape recorder.

Pic thus features Herge’s own voice, accompanied by copious archive material and stylized animations of him speaking, talking honestly about how his strip became a conduit for his own personal problems as well as an oblique reflection of the troubled times in which it was composed. The effect and subject is not unlike “American Splendor,” but with less flashy self-reflexivity.

Herge talks about his first patron, ultra-right-wing, Catholic Rev. Wallez, publisher of le Vingtieme Siecle, who once rapped Herge’s knuckles for setting Tintin at odds with a barely disguised version of the Third Reich just before WWII broke out. During the war, the paper was vigorously pro-Nazi, and the strip retreated from the political resonance that distinguished its first decade.

After the liberation of Belgium, Herge was arrested and blacklisted for two years. Once back at the drawing board, he made the strip echo obliquely his personal problems, such as the breakup of his first marriage when he fell in love with another woman (Fanny Remi, his second wife, who’s also interviewed). The near-nervous breakdown that inspired one of his best books, “Tintin in Tibet,” composed while he was in psychotherapy, is discussed at length.

In addition to the Herge interview material, pic also includes contributions from “Tintin” experts Michael Farr and Harry Thompson, who expand on strip’s references and history. Although clearly made with great affection for both artist and strip, pic never comes across as fawning or fearful of covering the less-flattering aspects of the artist’s life.

Tech credits are consistently high, with Simon Plum’s playful lensing of contemporary footage and Kirsten Skytte’s elegant, stencil-like animation especially deserving of praise. Archival footage integrates nicely into the whole through skillful editing.

Tintin and I

Denmark

Production

An Angel Prods. (Denmark)/Periscope Prods. (Belgium)/Dune (France)/Moulinsart (Belgium), Leapfrog (Switzerland) production, in association with the Danish Film Institute, DR TV, NRK, SVT, YLE/FST, Cine Tirol, Eurimages, Nordic Film & TV Fund, AVRO (Netherlands), VRT, RTBF, Center for the Cinema & the Audiovisual of the French Community of Belgium and the Walloon Cable Distributors, Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds, France 2, France 5, CNC, Procirep (France), TSR, Angoa-Agicoa, Media Development. (International sales: Angel Scandinavia, Copenhagen.) Produced by Peter Bech. Executive producers, Paul Pauwels, Chantel Bernheim, Eve Vercel, Nick Rodwell, Morgens Glad, Paul Erik Lindeborg. Directed, written by Anders Hogsbro Ostergaard.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV-to-35mm), Simon Plum; editor, Anders Villadsen; music, Joachim Holbek, Halfdan E; costume designers, Else Bogaerts, Charlotte Mia Christofferson; sound (Dolby SR), Jean Jacques Quinet; animation supervisor, Kirsten Skytte. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (Nordic Competition), Jan. 29, 2004. Running time: 76 MIN.

With

Herge, Michael Farr, Numa Sadoul, Harry Thompson. (French, English, Flemish, German dialogue)
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