AKA Le fantôme de Canterville

I first read The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde, when I was a very young boy. I must have been about eight or nine. I was probably only about twelve years old the last time I read it. It’s been far too long, but that hasn’t stopped me always noting it as a firm favourite. So I didn’t think twice when I saw that another filmed version of the tale was showing at EIFF2016.

The gender of the ghost has been switched, as well as the backstory, and there’s an additional pinch of Cyrano de Bergerac in the mix, but this nails the mix of frights and fun that I recall experiencing when I first read the story. And the essence is the same, for most of the runtime, in that the ghost (here played by Audrey Fleurot) cannot scare the new tenants of her home, and even ends up having to avoid traps and avoid attacks from some decidedly unscared children (although she may do better in her efforts to change things by manipulating teenagers Virginia – played by Mathilde Daffe – and Erwan – played by Julien Frison).

Adapted into screenplay form, and directed, by Yann Samuell (who seems to be out to prove himself after apparently disappointing many viewers with The Great Ghost Recue), this is pretty much perfect family entertainment for those who allow their children to enjoy subtitled films. The characters are wonderful (including a mother who is very into her spirituality, a workaholic father, and the always-forgetting-that-he-was-beheaded manservant of the main character, Gwilherm, played by Michael Youn), the production design and special effects work perfectly in line with the story, without overshadowing it, and the humour and heart are nicely balanced throughout.

Daffe and Frison both do good work as the teenagers in the middle of a very strange situation, as do Michele Laroque and Lionnel Astier in the parental roles, but this film is about the ghosts, first and foremost. Whether he’s losing his head or going on about revolutionaries, Youn is always very funny and full of nervous energy. Fleurot though, as should be the case, commands your attention whenever she strides, floats or shrieks across the screen. Impressive when she’s trying her best to scare people, Fleurot is also just a delight as she gets to show her frustration, stubbornness, and a range of strange emotions that her character may have thought long behind her.

I can’t praise this highly enough, despite the fact that many will be ready to dismiss it as “just a kid’s film”. See it if you get the chance. If you end up hating it then I accept full responsibility . . . . . . . in a way that isn’t legally binding.

The Canterville Ghost is showing at 1335 on 24th June in Filmhouse 2, and at 1100 on 26th june in Cineworld.

WRITER/DIRECTOR: YANN SAMUELL, BASED ON THE SHORT STORY BY OSCAR WILDE
STARS: AUDREY FLEUROT, MATHILDE DAFFE, JULIEN FRISON, MICHAEL YOUN, MICHELE LAROQUE
RUNTIME: 92 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: FRANCE

Film Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

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