Le Jour des Corneilles (The Day of the Crows)

This French Canadian feature by Jean Christophe Dessaint is the best kind of kids’ movie- funny, kinda twisted, a little dark, but also poignant and tender in a sincere, didn’t-come-from-the-mind-of-a-Hollywood-exec sort of way. It’s not actually a children’s movie so much as an animated movie which happens to be okay for kids to watch, which is pretty much what all “Children’s Films” should be.

Jour des Corneilles does what every great film does- it shows, rather than tells. It doesn’t bother with exposition, or try to explain any of the odd things we encounter in the forest as we follow this feral boy’s wanderings from one mysterious animal-person to the next. Even the opening scene grabs you by the balls, as Sam Fuller has always said movies should do: a crazed old man dumps a baby deep inside an animal’s burrow and abandons him in the middle of a thunderstorm. Cue the opening title.

But it’s not just dramatic storytelling- it’s the way characters are introduced, developed, and revealed. No one here is a stereotype, not either of the kids, nor the doctor, nor even the townsfolk that, at first, seem like the xenophobic, mob-mentality crowd you usually see in these movies. And even the father- a gruff, humorless jerk with no manners- is understood, and loved, by the end. While Disney and Pixar waste their money on one formulaic movie after another, Jour des Corneilles remembers why we make animated films in the first place- to tell the kind of story there’s no way to tell with actors and a camera.

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