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Tykho Moon

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.

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.

Tykho Moon

French-German

  • Production: A Steward release (in France) of Salome/Schlemmer/Nova Films production, in association with Canal Plus. (International sales: Canal Plus, Paris.) Produced by Maurice Bernart, Christoph Meyer-Weil. Executive producer, Alain Centonze. Directed by Enki Bilal. Screenplay, Bilal, Dan Franck
  • Crew: Camera (color), Eric Gautier; editor, Thierry Derodes; music, Goran Vejvoda; production design, Jean-Vincent Puzos; costume design, Esther Walz; sound (Dolby), Jean-Louis Ughetto, Francois Groult, Robi Guver; associate producer, Wieland Schulz-Keil; assistant director, Jean-Christophe Delpias. Reviewed at Pathe Wepler theater, Paris, March 5, 1997. Running time: 107 MIN.
  • With: Lena ..... Julie Delpy Anikst/Tykho ..... Johan Leysen Mac Bee ..... Michel Piccoli Eva ..... Marie Laforet Glenbarr ..... Richard Bohringer Alvin/Edward ..... Yann Collette Doctor ..... Jean-Louis Trintignant Peter Berling, Frederic Gorny, Roger Dumas, Svetozar Cvetkovic