Michel Ocelot’s “Dilili in Paris” isn’t your standard animated kids’ fare — not by a long shot. And that’s a good thing. With its sophisticated Belle Epoque setting and parade of cultural and artistic figures and references, it’s almost like taking a trip to a colorful, informative, interactive museum. Which is somewhat apropos, given that we first meet young Dilili (voiced by Prunelle Charles-Ambron) when she’s participating in a living cultural exhibit of the Kanak people.
X This role, which is offensive by today’s standards, doesn’t seem to bother the girl, though she does speak of being judged based on her skin color by both the Kanak (who see her as too light) and Parisians (who say she’s too dark). But overall her race figures far less in the story than her curiosity and tenacity, which help her get to the bottom of a series of kidnappings of girls being committed by a shadowy cabal known as the Male Masters.
Dilili investigates with the help of her new friend Orel (Enzo Ratsito), a courier who knows the city well and facilitates Dilili’s introduction to a who’s who of late-19th-century Paris: Pasteur, Toulouse-Latrec, Picasso, Colette, Renoir, Modigliani, Debussy, Sarah Bernhardt, and many more. They all take a shine to the bright, friendly Dilili and are quick to come to her aid when she needs them.
And need them she does, as the Male Masters will stop at nothing to carry out their extremist, anti-woman agenda. This part of the story, with its echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale, rings especially relevant in today’s climate — but while there are a couple of shocking scenes in what’s otherwise a tween-friendly tale, Dilili in Paris is never bleak or downbeat. Instead, it’s an empowering story about the power of art and the triumph of a determined young girl going up against powerful men who would do anything to stop her and others like her from succeeding. — Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Leslie Combemale Dilili in Paris celebrates the beauty and much of the best of the Belle Epoque and the city of lights, but renowned director Michel Ocelot’s latest animated feature also examines philosophical and political subjects relating to race, class, gender, and art. Read full review.
Loren King An original, charming blend of sophistication and simplicity; classic animation and contemporary sensibility, director Michel Ocelot’s Dilili in Paris is a gem. It centers on a precocious six-year-old girl, Dilili, who with her friend and guide, a bicycle courier named Orel, travels through Belle Époque Paris as she investigates a series of kidnappings of young girls. In their quest to solve the crimes, Dilili and Orel journey past exquisitely rendered backdrops of buildings, squares and landmarks and encounter historical figures such as Marie Curie, Gustave Eiffel, Colette and many more. An adventure tale with an empowering message, this delightful family film is also an ode to The City of Light and to French culture and history.
Sandie Angulo Chen: Dilili in Paris has so much going for it: an acclaimed animation director (Michel Ocelot), a lovable diverse protagonist, an intriguing suspense plot line, and a fascinating retrospective of Belle Epoque Paris’s most notable figures. Dilili, a young, mixed-race New Caledonian girl who works in a “human zoo” exhibit about Kanak culture, and Orel, a tricycle courier, team up to tour the City of Light. Along the way, the new friends visit a seemingly endless list of famous Parisians and take on a mysterious misogynistic underground society. Although the dubbed narrators are underwhelming, the historical fiction is entertaining: there’s Nobel Prize-winning Marie Curie; opera great Emma Calve; La Goulue and Toulouse-Lautrec at the Moulin Rouge, Picasso and Rousseau at the Bateau-Lavoir; Sarah Bernhardt, Gertrude Stein, Colette – and so many more. Francophiles will be especially enchanted, especially if you can catch the original with subtitles.
Sheila Roberts Writer/director Michel Ocelot’s stylish, computer-animated period adventure, Dilili In Paris, follows the escapades of a surprisingly sophisticated young girl of color who performs on stage in a cultural display in Belle Epoque Paris. When her show ends, the inquisitive Dilili decides to explore the stunning city where she looks forward to making new friends. Read full review.
Jennifer Merin writer/director Michel Ocelot’s distinctive style of animation and exposition has a simplicity and fluidity that allows for a beautifully rendered tour of Paris’ well known tourist spots, as well as the introduction of the leading cultural figures of the day and a surprising roster of other cultural references. And, all the while, there’s the mystery of the Male Masters, whose political leanings and agenda are, we learn, threateningly right wing and anti-female. Read full review.
Liz Whittemore With a swift-paced plot, Dilili in Paris revolves around a precocious young girl who meets a curious young courier. With an appetite for knowledge, the two bound about the city only to run into famed artists, scientists, and activists; some of the greatest cultural icons in history. Confronted with an underground criminal presence that is kidnapping little girls and with no help from the local authorities, Dilili sets out to solve the mystery herself. The mixed-media animation is truly stunning. While the plot is filled with intrigue, the ultimate reveal, at least for me, jumps the shark a bit. Dilili in Paris has the charm to sustain an audience if you can look past the silliness and grab onto the larger message of equality and acceptance.
Susan Wloszczyna: The computer-animated Dilili in Paris packs scenic delights as the film whirls about Gay Paree during the city’s Belle Epoque era. It also features a charmer of a traveling companion in the guise of title’s little lady. Dilili, who was born into an indigenous society in New Caledonia, lands in Paris after stowing away on a ship bound for France and becoming a ward of a rich countess. The 6-year-old is smart and sweet, plucky and precocious and as curious about the world as any Shirley Temple heroine as she stumbles Zelig-like into notable figures from the period — Madame Curie, Picasso, Colette, Debussy, Erik Satie, Gertrude Stein — while traveling about with a courtly young male courier named Orel as he goes about his rounds on his tricycle. However, it’s too bad that the film is dubbed into English and not subtitled, since it renders much of the dialogue flat and stilted. And there is a clash between the lively backdrops and the stylized human figures. It also seems more than a little creepy that Dilili and Orel become entangled in solving the mystery of a misogynistic nose-ring-sporting gang knownas the Male Masters who abduct young girls and make them their captives. Director and writer Michel Ocelot should perhaps be applauded for making a statement about the oppression of women that reflects our #MeToo times, but he forgets that he must also fully entertain us as well.
Pam Grady: Such Belle Epoque figures as Marie Curie, Sarah Bernhardt, Camille Claudel, Auguste Rodin, and Louis Pasteur appear in this animated fable as Delili, a young Kanak girl, and Orel, a French delivery boy, race around Paris determined to stop a criminal gang that is kidnapping they city’s little girls. The film’s style is resolutely old-fashioned with the animated figures set against static backgrounds to pleasing effect. The characters and the production design, which recreates everything from the Eiffel Tower to Paris’ sewers to a magnificent hot-air balloon along with eye-popping fashion and reproductions of famous sculpture and painting, are the movie’s strengths. Delili in Paris is one beautiful movie with one very silly–if involving–plot. Also, in a film that teems with a multitude of characters, the decision to have Delili greet each and every one of them with, “I am so very PLEASED to meet you,” was just daft. The repetition is annoying and those moments are jarring, because she is an otherwise charming character. See the film in the original French with subtitles if at all possible — the English-language version is stilted in both translation and performance.
Cate Marquis Dilili in Paris is an animated adventure film, that combines colorful computer animated images with photographic-like background footage of the real Paris. The story revolves around Dilili, a half Kanak, half French little girl who is appearing in a recreation of a Kanak village in the South Pacific, as part of a Paris World’s Fair circa 1890s. After the exhibit closes for the day, Dilili trades her native costume for a pretty white dress and goes exploring the city in the company of a French delivery boy she befriended. The two friends soon find themselves trying to solve the mystery of a secret group who is kidnapping young girls. As they work to unravel the mystery, they meet famous people and visit famous Parisian sights, such as the Paris Opera, the Eiffel Tower, and the Moulin Rouge. They meet a dazzling array of artists, composers, and scientists, such as Henri Toulouse-Laytrec, Marie Curie and the author Colette. The film is a color-drenched delight, giving a wonderful tour of Paris sights in the photographic background and a tour of French culture with its assortment of historical figures. The animated figures often recreate scenes from famous paintings, and the film adds music by Debussy and Sati, who also appear as characters. On top of all that, the film also adds a femme-centric message in its abduction mystery plot.
Title: Dilili in Paris
Directors: Michel Ocelot
Release Date: October 4, 2019
Running Time: 95 minutes
Screenwriter: Michel Ocelot
Distribution Company: Samuel Goldwyn Films
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Marina Antunes, Nikki Baughan, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna
Edited by Jennifer Merin