Review: ‘Hop-o’-My-Thumb’

A grim take on Charles Perrault's dark fairy tale about a diminutive boy deserted by his parents who compensates for his stature with heightened intelligence.

“Grim” is the word that best describes French helmer Marina de Van’s take on “Hop-o’-My-Thumb,” Charles Perrault’s dark fairy tale about a diminutive boy deserted by his parents who compensates for his stature with heightened intelligence. Produced by the team behind Catherine Breillat’s Perrault adaptations “Bluebeard” and “Sleeping Beauty,” this telepic has a similarly tight budget and generic period look (mainly invoked by costumes) while again fusing a femme helmer’s sensibilities — here including flesh, violence and personality transfer — with an age-old morality tale. Too grisly for children, “Thumb” should hop to a select few fests.

Story’s been filmed before in Gaul, including as a 2001 kid pic by Olivier Dahan (“La Vie en rose”). De Van (“In My Skin”) brings an earthy matter-of-factness to the brutal tale of the titular boy (Ilian Calabert, alright), who, with his four older brothers — down from Perrault’s six — has to face a human-eating ogre (Denis Lavant, hamming it up) after their dirt-poor and (unconvincingly) desperate folks (Rachel Arditi, Adrien de Van) have abandoned them in the woods. Gliding HD lensing is crisp, special effects low-key, and the score’s darker undercurrents just right.

Hop-o'-My-Thumb

France

Production

A Flach Film production, in association with Arte France. (International sales: Pyramide Intl., Paris.) Produced by Jean-Francois Lepetit, Sylvette Frydman. Directed by Marina de Van. Screenplay, Bertrand Santini, de Van.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Vincent Mathias; editor, Mike Fromentin; music, Alexei Aigui; production designer, Francois-Renaud Labarthe; costume designer, Marielle Robaut. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 3, 2011. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Ilian Calabert, Rachel Arditi, Adrien de Van, Denis Lavant, Valerie Dashwood, Thomas Momplot, Orfeo Campanella, Lilian Dugois.

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