Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Magasin Général: Marie

Magasin Général (General Store) Tome 1, Marie, Casterman, 2006.

Magasin Général was serialized first in Belgium in Le Soir newspaper and in France in Bodoi, beginning with no. 91. There have been five volumes to date. The fifth tome, Montréal, is previewed HERE. Loisel, author and artist of Peter Pan (1990), was born in 1951 in France. Jean-Louis Tripp was born in France in 1958 and began his cartooning career on Métal Hurlant in 1977. Both artists currently live in Montréal. Loisel and Tripp share both script and art on Magasin Général, with colors by Francois Lapierre. Jimmy Beaulieu of Montréal provides the narrative with authentic Quebecois expressions, just enough for authenticity while remaining comprehensible to all audiences.

The heroine of this outstanding BD, a comic work comparable to the greatest of novels, is Marie Ducharme, and when the story opens she is the newly widowed proprietor of a general store in a rural village in Québec in the twenties. The first volume tells of the funeral of Marie’s husband, her loneliness and grief. What follows is a timeless journey through Marie’s community as she makes deliveries in a beaten-down pickup truck, scattering livestock as she goes. The highlight is a barn-dance ending in a drunken brawl that takes up six gorgeously colored pages.

This subtly perceptive story builds slowly but it is never dull and will not be easy to forget. The bucolic village of Notres-Dame-des-Lacs is filled with eccentric characters, the village priest on his bicycle, a man who is building a large bateau on the lake, barn dance fiddlers and harmonica players, washerwomen engaged in gossip at the creek, and barefoot children watching over goats and sheep. In Magasin Général time passes as in real life, with comedy and tragedy at every turn. The artists’ eyes for detail are incredible; every panel is an evocative work of art; every weathered face is unique; every gesture true to life.

I usually find myself skeptical of comparing comics to art or literature but for Magasin Général I’ll make the exception; it reads like a novel; a novel in words and pictures, and has the emotional wallop of all great works of art. While reading Marie I was reminded a bit of Claude Jutra’s acclaimed 1971 film Mon oncle Antoine. Magasin Général has already attracted the attention of the Québec theatre; it could well be the inspiration for another great film in the future.

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