Michael Smith reviews “Long Way North” for Cine-File Chicago

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This delightful French/Danish co-production, the directorial debut of one Remi Chaye, sneaks into the Gene Siskel Film Center just in the nick of time to claim the title of best new animated film to play Chicago in 2016. LONG WAY NORTH is a rollicking adventure story that centers on Sasha (voiced by Christa Theret and Chloe Dunn), a 15-year-old girl in 19th century Russia who defies the wishes of her aristocratic parents and sets out for the North Pole to look for her grandfather, an explorer who went missing there while on an expedition during the previous year. At stake is the grandfather’s reputation since his ship, the Davai, was supposed to be “unsinkable” and his ill-fated mission has branded him a laughingstock and a failure. While the story is alternately poignant and thrilling, and likely to give young viewers a genuine and welcome dose of grrrl power, the real star of the show here is the beautiful hand-drawn animation; Chaye got his start in filmmaking as one of the layout artists on Jean-François Laguionie’s THE ISLAND OF BLACK M’OR (2004), which LONG WAY NORTH resembles both in its conception as an almost Herzogian young-adult adventure on the high seas as well as in its early comic-book style of illustration, where clean lines and broad, clearly separated planes of color create bold and indelible graphic images. LONG WAY NORTH will screen at the Siskel in both its original French-language version with English subtitles and in an English-dubbed version. Check the venue’s website for detailed information on the showtimes of each version.

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