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NBM brings us An Enchantment by Christian Durieux, the latest in their series of comics set in and around the Louvre (it’s translated by Joe Johnson). I still love the fact that the museum wants to advertise itself by letting comics creators use the art to create a setting of the comics. It’s a very cool move. Anyway, this book costs $20 for a nice (if a bit thin) hardcover.
Durieux tells a story of an unnamed man and unnamed woman who meet one night at the Louvre. The man, who’s elderly, is some kind of government official who’s retiring, and he can’t stand to hang out at his retirement party anymore. He ditches it and flees deep into the museum, where he finds a young woman who could easily be seen as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl if Durieux weren’t a better author. Zooey Deschanel would definitely play her in the shitty American version of the far superior French movie, where she’d be played by Mélanie Laurent or Diane Kruger. The cover says this is a “graphic poem,” and it doesn’t have much of a plot, as the two of them simply wander around the museum talking about some of the paintings and the old man’s mortality (he carries a vial of cyanide around with him, which he claims he’s going to use to poison various people, including himself). The young woman is naturally effervescent, and she gets the old man to let his hair down a bit, so to speak. The book takes an interesting esoteric turn at the end, and while it’s not the most unique of endings (heck, I wrote a story twenty years ago with almost the exact same ending!), it flows well from what has happened before.
The book uses the artwork of the Louvre quite well. The man sees himself as a baroque Napoleon III, while he imagines the woman as Helen in a painting by François Boucher. Durieux makes the Louvre a fantasy world, where anyone can be anyone else, and the artwork helps with the whimsical tone he’s going for – despite the old man’s age and fears, the book never becomes too dreary. The idea of people seeing themselves in artwork also helps make the ending work better, too. The book treads carefully between the whimsy of the woman and the man’s elegaic rambling, and the use of the artwork helps make the book a bit more metaphorical, so we’re not too bogged down in either, until that ending where everything comes together. That the two people remain a bit chimerical is kind of the point – they’re not exactly archetypes, but they’re close enough that the book becomes a bit more universal. It’s an interesting choice by the author, and it makes the contention that this is a “graphic poem” more forceful – this really is about feeling more than anything else, and Durieux is able to pull it off.
His art is very nice, too. He uses very muted coloring inside the museum, which makes the splashes of night sky that show up occasionally stand out much better, and while he uses Photoshop (or Illustrator, I suppose) to put the paintings in the story, he also blends his own drawings with the art very well. His characters are elegant and precise, and because there’s not a lot of action in the story, Durieux needs to be good at facial expressions, and he does very well with that. In a quiet story like this, the art doesn’t need to be flashy, and Durieux’s style suits the work perfectly.
An Enchantment certainly isn’t for everyone. People who love plot-heavy stuff might find it boring, and that’s fine. It’s a charming comic, though, one that gets under your skin more than you might expect, and it’s a nice story of two people searching for something new. Whether they find it or not is for you to discover.