In 1915, laconic adventurer and former ship captain Corto Maltese, a popular European comic book character, is in war-torn Europe. During WWI, he visits four historical locations - Venice, Caporetto, Stonehenge and Vaux-sur-Somme.
In 1918, civil wars are tearing Russia and China apart. Laconic adventurer Corto Maltese is hired by a Chinese secret society to capture a train that's taking Tzar's gold abroad. His friend Rasputin joins him, but only hell awaits them.
In 1913, laconic sea captain Corto Maltese, adrift in the Pacific, gets rescued by his bandit friend Rasputin who's taking two rich shipwrecked teens to an island where his boss the Monk will hold them for ransom. WWI complicates things.
David Le Rheun
In 1916, laconic adventurer Corto Maltese is in Paramaribo, Surinam visiting his mystic female friend Java. He helps a young heir haunted by voodoo spirits, delivers some weapons to rebels in Brazil and hunts for treasure with Rasputin.
In 1921, laconic adventurer Corto Maltese is in Turkey where several armed factions fight for control. He finds a map to a lost Persian treasure there. He'll need his friend Rasputin who's in Samarkand prison run by Corto's double.
Compilation of three stories about laconic adventurer Corto Maltese set in 1918. He infiltrates a fort where young prince Saud is being held, tries to stop a war between two African tribes and investigate the secretive "Leopard-Men".
Compilation of three adventures of laconic adventurer Corto Maltese set in 1917. He searches for El Dorado in Venezuela, finds a suitcase every political faction in Honduras will kill for and helps Sinn Féin fight the British army.
Anthology of four Corto Maltese shorts set in WWI Europe. In 1915, World War I has spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world. Maltese-born laconic adventurer Corto Maltese is not bothered by it, however, since he's preoccupied with his latest endeavor. He's in Venice looking for information on the mythical Seven Cities of Gold, or more specifically - the seventh city itself, since next to nothing is known about it. He contacts Serafino, one of the leaders of the local Franciscan religious order there. It turns out that a mysterious local woman in wheelchair nicknamed the Angel at the East Window may know something about it. However, Austrian spies and adventuress Venexiana Stevenson sidetrack Corto. In 1917, Corto is hired by Montenegro republicans to find and return their dethroned king's gold that he hid while escaping from the invading Austrian forces. The gold is hidden in an abandoned bombed-out church near the town of Caporetto. The problem is that the town is part ...
Circa 2002, several French and Italian production companies and TV channels joined forces to create an animated series of shorts and features based on the adventures of popular Italian comic book character Corto Maltese, a laconic adventurer and former sea captain who travels all across Europe and its colonies as well as Asia, South America and other places during the 1910s and the 1920s and witnesses first hand the many horrors and atrocities that the brutal bloody history of the early 20th century had to offer, from World War I to various civil wars and communist and other revolutions. This is why the comic book was (and still is) very popular in Europe, but is virtually unknown in the US.
Every story has a basic formula - Corto is hired, convinced or has reasons of his own to go to a certain exotic location where treasure, people or mystery await, but gets caught up in local infighting on the way there and becomes a witness to history. With the help from the people he meets along the way, he eventually reaches his goal, only to discover that the trip was more interesting than the destination. Here however, we have somewhat of an exception since one of the stories seemingly turns out profitable for Corto.
Corto himself is a trustworthy tall, thin, slick, charming man with very sentimental and laconic view of life, who easily makes friends and can handle himself in most fights, although on occasion he does act brash and bites off more than he can chew. Corto has no problems with violence or killing when deemed necessary, but he is disturbed by death and pain of the innocents. He often tries to help those oppressed or in need he meets on his journeys, which often gets him into serious trouble. However, he never fights lost battles and has a distinctive sense of self-preservation, as well as lots of acquaintances and luck. The ladies are often attracted to his charm, attitude and willingness to take action, but also to his slight naiveté that sometimes they and even some of his temporary allies try to take advantage of. However, Corto is no James Bond and while he often cares about his female companions in a platonic way, he rarely beds the girl, unless he's actually interested in her. In one of the stories here, Corto's sentimentalism towards a certain woman costs him his treasure, but then again, that could be for the best.
One could call him the European Indiana Jones, although Corto, as a fan of poetry and art, has only superficial knowledge of archeology, kills somewhat more indiscriminatingly, often waxes poetic and his world is much more adult, dramatic and darker than Indy's with little to no magical, fantastical or sci-fi elements. However, one of the stories here indulges in fantasy happily in a partly serious tribute to Celtic mythology and the Arthurian legend.
Although this film is called The Celts (or Celtics), it's also known as "Under the Flag of Gold" and it's a compilation of four of Corto's short adventures. This is unfortunate because some of the stories don't get the time to become engaging, although others benefit from this, since longer running time would turn a fun bizarre Arthurian tribute or a simple to the point real life soldier's story into a nonsensical drawn-out mess.
Every entry in this animated franchise has similar qualities and faults.
Most Corto's adventures are like a cross between an old b&w Hollywood epic adventure combined with the sensibilities of a serious historian. Although Corto's feats may seem ridiculous at times, the locations he visits and the events he witnesses are presented in a highly atmospheric, quite brutal and often realistic way with a touch of comical, while the slow depressing intensity of the adventure never dissipates. The stylistic brooding conservative art design is quite atmospheric, very faithful to the comic and the animation looks less cheep than it is. You'd never guess the films were partly animated in North Korea (no joke). On the other hand, stories in this compilation have a much less tense tone and some even have straight up comical elements. The episode about Monetenegrin gold almost starts to feel like a Python sketch after a while and the fantastical set up of the unique and poetic Stonehenge episode must be seen to be believed. These are not necessarily faults, just slightly jarring novelties for this somber, sarcastic and dramatic franchise.
As for the faults, the story sometimes references moments and characters from Corto's past that are never explained. It's nothing major, but if you have seen the other movies and shorts, or read the comics, you'll have that much extra context. The pacing is a bit off. Some stories feel rushed, while others seem a bit irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Finally, the tone is a bit off. Some stories are light in tone, and others have only slight gravitas. This makes the whole movie feel less important than it should be.
Still, in the end, this is a more or less enjoyable sit, but it's kind of middle of the road. The stronger elements compensate for the weaker ones.
The movie is available on DVD and has English audio track, which is not the best, but it gets the job done, I guess. You can also get "Corto Maltese - Collector's Edition" that's in English and contains all of Corto's animated adventures.
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