Blutch is hands down one of the most talented and respected French cartoonists today, a hero to the up-and-coming generation, even including Americans like Jessica Abel and Craig Thompson. It’s a travesty he doesn’t even have an English Wikipedia entry. It’s a tragedy, too, that he’s barely been published in English up till now, but happily, that’s a wrong we’re about to right. We can’t make up for all the lost years, but Dan Nadel’s Brooklyn-based PictureBox is putting out his first full-length work to appear in English. May it pave the way for a long overdue Blutch invasion and (at this point) career retrospective: for starters, English editions of Peplum, Mitchum, Blotch, Vitesse moderne, and Le petit Christian…
This release is something discerning fans stateside have been waiting for a very long time. Blutch ‘s built a solid fan base, mostly by word of mouth, among cartoonists, illustrators, animators, and Francophiles. In So Long, Silver Screen, Blutch pushes the counterpoint of text and image to the limit, delivering a Godardian cine-essay in graphic novel form. It’s a mash note, a hate letter, an editorial, a screed, the diary of an affair, the best kind of critique–intimately, messily, inextricably bound up with personal history. Along the way, Blutch gets off a number of bons mots, his wit as epigrammatic as his style is compressed in its dense conveyance of information. (My favorite: ”Cinema is a butterfly net for catching little girls.”) There are especially astute entries on acting (starring Burt Lancaster), the male gaze and the mistreatment of women, and the price of fame. Inevitably, meditations on film are meditations on time. Blutch stands at the edge of film’s grave, that 20th century titan, tossing in flowers of tribute.
Of note: So Long, Silver Screen, is one of the few books I’ve worked on whose title was reworked, in collaboration with the publisher. The original, Pour en finir avec le cinéma, translates to “To have done with movies,” but includes a colloquialism: “faire son cinéma” means making a fuss over something—a production, shall we say—such that the common “Arrête ton cinema” translates to “Stop making such a big deal about it.” So the title’s implication is also Goodbye to All That (Bizness, or Nonsense). We batted a number of ideas around, starting closer to the original with puns like Wrapping Up: Thoughts on Film, and That’s a Wrap: Notes on Movies; moving on to cultural references like Say Goodbye to Hollywood, Au Revoir le Cinéma, and The Last Picture Show and Tell, before settling on the current choice.
For those who can’t wait till the April release, Comic Book Resources has a 10-page preview up. A few years ago Words Without Borders, ever ahead of the curve, ran an excerpt from Blutch’s book That Was Happiness, along with a short making-of video interviewing the artist, and David Varno blogged an appreciation of Blutch’s style.