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1 item from 2007

Captain Ahab

10 August 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Locarno International Film Festival

LOCARNO, Switzerland -- Yes, it's that famous whale-hunter but French director Philippe Ramos uses "Moby Dick" for only the last fifth of his film "Captain Ahab", choosing to an invent a back-story that's more Mark Twain than Herman Melville. There's much to like in the sweeping tale of how a resourceful orphan grew up to become the fearless harpoonist and seeker of the great white whale. Virgil Leclaire has terrific screen presence as the young Ahab and, being new, his tale is more engrossing than the familiar story of the fated captain.

Flawed only by some anachronistically modern songs on the soundtrack, the film's well-drawn period atmosphere and gripping tale should see it sail into rewarding boxoffice territory around the world. It screened in Competition at Locarno.

Told as a fable, the yarn follows young Ahab after his mother's death and his temporary adoption by her pious sister Rose (Mona Heftre). But then his absentee father (Jean-Francois Stevenin) takes him away to live in a log cabin in the woods where they encounter a free-spirited nymph named Louise (Hande Kodja). Ahab is as enamored of Louise as his father but she dallies with a wandering rascal named Will Adams (Bernard Blancan) and soon their idyll is ended. The boy is returned to his aunt, but before she leaves, Louise gives him a locket with her name engraved inside and that becomes his talisman.

When his aunt gets married to a dandy who likes to use his cane on the lad, Ahab runs away and has a series of huckleberry adventures before he grows up to become an obsessed sea captain.

Ramos has a good sense of what is fun in a boy's adventure and whether or not his Ahab would have turned into the man in Melville's tale is another question. Much of the appealing whimsy disappears when the stern features of Denis Lavant show up as the adult Ahab.

His love affair with the widow Anna (Dominique Blanc) is handled well and so are the seagoing trials of the Pequod with the reliable Starbuck (Jacques Bonnaffe) at the tormented captain's side. But it's the wide-eyed wonder of the young Ahab and his captivating Louise that linger when the movie is done.


Sesame Films


Writer/director/editor: Philippe Ramos

Executive producer: Florence Borelly

Director of photography: Laurent Desmet

Production designers: Ramos, Christophe Sartori, Erika von Weissenberg

Music: Pierre-Stephane Meuge, Olivier Bombarda, Tonio Matias

Co-producer: Olivier Guerpillon

Costume designer: Marie-Laure Pinsard


Captain Ahab: Denis Lavant

Young Ahab: Virgil Leclaire

Ahab's father: Jean-Francois Stevenin

Louise: Hande Kodja

Rose: Mona Heftre

Mulligan: Carlo Brandt

Anna: Dominique Blanc

Starbuck: Jacques Bonnaffe

Minister: Jean-Paul Bonnaire

Will Adams: Bernard Blancan

Henry: Philippe Katerine

Jim Larsson: Pierre Pellet

King of England: Jean-Christophe Bouvet

Dr. Hogganbeck: Lou Castel

Running time -- 97 minutes

No MPAA rating


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