Allo Jaffar !

Just as any, I have been happy to enjoy many traits bearing Moebius-Gir signature on films. Tron, Alien, The Fifth Element as well and maybe some Blade Runner and Dune too. But It was my best friend who really talked to me about him. A talented graphist in his own right, he grew up with a steady hunger for the European, American and, more recently, Japanese comics. In our teens, he lent me the Silver Surfer collaboration with Stan Lee, and later on, shown me the sparse but beautiful Arzak Raphsody cartoon. Sharing the best, that’s what friends do right?

The Time Masters
But the work I know best from Moebius is his participation to René Laloux‘s Les Maîtres du temps. The lonely kid with the egg like red mic, the Jaffar spaceship, the faceless angels, the forms and the colours… I was 5 and it was shown uring the christmas holidays, with the whole family gathered at granny’s place. These striking images stuck through the years until I met my friend, talked about it together and tracked the film’s 2003 release in DVD. In the bonus segment, late director René Laloux both regretted that the French establishment was poor to recognize the forces of imagination and creativity, in order to make way for animated feature films and series, and that his collaboration with Moebius stopped after the concept stage, the proper animation handled by an eastern, communist ruled company with young and unexperienced animators. The film, said to be uneven, has a vision and originality which easily overweights its weaknesses. Sir Laloux subsequent film, Gandahar, this time drawn by Philippe Caza, ranks among the most beautiful films I have seen.

Moreover, what makes this day a very sad one, is the perception of his importance in the balance of the contemporary pop culture. France holds an ambiguous relationship to it. When rock n roll got here in the sixties, we fabricated false, local idols. That’s why we have been dutyfully dancing to Claude François instead of the Stones through every wedding for the past 30 years. And that’s why the Métal Hurlant magazine, born in 1975, is so important in our recent history. These guys were talented and ready for action. And the world took notice.

Pixels hurlant
Years pass and the french videogame industry rises: Lankhor, Loriciel, Infogrames, Ere informatique, Cryo, Delphine Software, Silmarils, Kalisto, Ubisoft… The themes of their games come straight from popular litterature, science fiction and comics, with talent and imagination a plenty: BAT, Kult, Crafton & Xunk, l’Aigle d’Or, Metal Masters, Skateball, Colorado, Purple Saturn Day, l’Arche du Capitaine Blood, Les Voyageurs du temps… Some titles like Another world, Alone in the Dark or Dune are technical and artistic breakthroughs, rocking the world over. While he personally worked little touches into videogames, Delphine’s Flashback sequel Fade to black, the Arzak inspired Panzer Dragoon, other games had a style which could relate to his work, like Ico and the forthcoming Journey. I strongly believe that Métal Hurlant set preceding ground for this industry, at least the french one, to translate this type of dreams into the digital era.

What we call the french touch is that capacity to mix other worlds and imagination with our natural sense of finesse, cultural and architectural inheritance. And that’s the key to it. Here, the “modern” has always been at odds with the traditionnal, and the pop oriented despised by the establishment before getting his late recognition. Yet our best artists, though unaware of it and sometimes refusing it, are descendants of Molière, Vauban and french cuisine. That’s our exotism, pervading in what we produce. I think our counter culture is still our culture.

Fiction as the only possible reality
And sir Giraud seemed to have an antenna with things, always receiving and processing ideas through the pencil. From what I read, his style was one of the shape shifter and the iconoclast. He could be very profuse and very clear, realist or abstract. Seems like he could be whatever he wanted to be. In a country which favors little, separate boxes for everything, that is soothing and giving some hope. He was one among a few others daring to say that the powers of imagination is the only edible reality, giving us an alternative way of seeing, dreaming, and doing things. Thinking out of the box if you prefer, a saying that has no french counterpart, or maybe “avoir une pensée originale”, but its less about defying the norm than having thoughts of your own.

He said once that his job was only about doing some “Mickey work”, self depreciating the rising glory and credit he was given to. But part of his style was so extremely precise, with a sensibility that was almost suffocating and so ambiguous sometimes, that the line between the beautiful & the trivial has been forever broken and hopefully never to be mended.

Expressions of grief and respect are pouring in every language since yesterday, as official media hesitate to put it in the front page, as it should be. France is at loss too guys and I think we are quite moved by such global response. Je crois que nous l’aimions ce vieil humain, que nous l’aimions beaucoup.

TheNightShift
12.03.2012

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