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Moving Pictures Paperback – June 8, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. First presented as a Web comic, this subtle, mature book details Ila Gardner's life in a France first threatened, then occupied by Nazi Germany. Employed as a museum curator and in charge of primarily minor works, Ila uses what little power she has to protect France's art from the rapacious Nazis by sending works into the safety of storage down in the museum's poorly documented basement. Aloof and seemingly indifferent to the events around her, in reality Ila is consumed with a genuine but ineffectual outrage over the course of history in Europe. Stuart Immonen's art is simple and starkly contrasted, at times as difficult to read as Ila herself. The face of the occupiers is the curiously sympathetic Rolf Hauptmann, the man who is by turns Ila's opponent, lover, protector, and interrogator. The true nature of what the Nazis are up to is not explicit, only implied by passing comments in the discussions between Ila and those around her. Avoiding the melodramatic trap many well-meaning graphic novels set around the horrors of WWII fall into, the Immonens keep the story spare and focused to allow the ambiguity of survival itself to become the drama.
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*Starred Review* This elegant and evocative historical graphic novel explores the personal relationships involved in protecting internationally recognized works of fine art during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Although the title plays on the narrative’s format and the story’s theme, the storytelling and the characters are as sober as the crisp, heavy black-and-white of its images. Concisely packed into the plot is a thread concerning how some in Paris could make themselves disappear, while others were discovered in processes they hoped to keep hidden. Another thread weaves out the failed and enervated romance between a German “doing his job” and a young subcurator forced to wonder whether her ideals can earn safety for the artworks she treasures. Deftly told, the whole story resonates long after its appropriately ambiguous final pages. Stuart Immonen has done art for Superman and Spider-Man heretofore, but this novel is fully realistic, independent, and has a very different tone. Text and image are both concise and share the edge of anger the protector of art in a crass world must feel. An excellent choice for dedicated comics readers and those venturing out beyond traditional fiction. --Francisca Goldsmith
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by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen
NOTE: mild spoilers below
Great graphic novel - I liked this a lot. It's a subtle, understated story about a Canadian woman who stays behind in occupied France during the early months of World War Two to keep working at her job as a low-ranking museum curator in charge of relatively unimportant, obscure pieces that are housed alongside the works of the great masters. This narrative is intercut with scenes of her methodical but not uncivilized interrogation by a Nazi functionary who is keeping tabs on the French museums and trying to make sure that the art classics that Germany covets are not smuggled away by the Resistance. The script and pacing of this book are marvelous: the contours of the plot and the character motivations are wonderfully unclear and suspense is mixed with a delicious sense of surreality as the horrors of WWII are eclipsed by the tiny lives of a handful of people who still cherish creativity even in the face of total war. A thoughtful, quiet and surprising story that demonstrates the best that the highbrow side of the comicbook world has to offer. (Joe Sixpack, ReadThatAgain book reviews)
The art by Suart Immomen is deceptively simple. The characters are sylized and rendered in stark black-and-white in direct contrast to the subtly and amazingly well cross-hatched representations of the works of art.
Unlike most World War II stories in any genre, the tone of this story is understated. These aren't soldiers, these are people caught up in the tension of a situation they don't want to be in but have absolutely no way to escape.
Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, both seperately and together, have done a lot of mainstream comics work, including Superman, the X-Men, and the Hulk. But seeing them tackle this kind of story is a real treat.