An attempt to transform serious French comic-book culture into a live-action motion picture again founders on the shoals of plot, motivation and all the other niggling details necessary for storytelling in “Tykho Moon.” Using a genre in which Jeunet and Caro succeeded with “Delicatessen,” then slipped with “The City of Lost Children,” helmer and comic-strip artist Enki Bilal stumbles badly. A hackneyed politico sci-fi tale, the film has admirable art direction but no narrative or directorial discipline. Like his earlier effort “Bunker Palace Hotel,” pic seems destined for Bilal fans only, plus a few comic-strip festivals.
Story is set on the moon, in a city that resembles Paris divided by a Berlin Wall and fallen into decorous Havana-like decay. The moon’s dictator, Mac Bee (Michel Piccoli), an aging sicko with a Gorbachev-like splotch, fears that his life may be over unless he finds Tykho Moon, the unwilling donor of brain cells to him a generation or so back. Mac Bee’s worries are compounded as his grown, splotchy offspring are felled by an assassin (Richard Bohringer) during their Gestapo-like searches for Tykho.
Amnesiac sculptor Anikst (Johan Leysen) is the man they seek. Sensing that his days are numbered but not knowing why, Anikst/Tykho wanders the city before coming across, in a meeting that almost saves the pic, the lovely spy and pseudo-hooker Lena (Julie Delpy), with whom he falls in love and braves suspenseless perils.
Had Bilal set his comic-book vision more squarely in the world of the lovers, viewers would have been spared the tiresomely familiar cliches of his anti-meanies premise. As it is, the endless scenes of Mac Bee howling in psychosomatic pain to his doctor (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and wife (Marie Laforet) prove that even impressive casting cannot save a bad script.
Tech credits are superb — and pic a treat to watch, whenever Piccoli’s dictator is not howling — with art direction and costume design seemingly having taken up most of the helmer’s attention. Were it not for Goran Vejvoda’s enticing soundtrack, “Tykho Moon” might have fared better as a silent. The thesps, given no room to move, are more models than actors, posing and pacing in minutely blocked-out sets. Only Delpy and, occasionally, Leysen, rise above the constraints imposed by the exercise.