TV Review: Loulou de Montmartre (2008)
Loulou de Montmartre is an animated French TV series, following the rather melodramatic, often Dickensian, travails of one orphaned, Parisian teen, Loulou, at the turn of the 20th century.
Comprised of one season of 26 episodes, Loulou de Montmartre is a gripping epic – truly, a very compelling story for kids and adults alike – created by Françoise Boublil and Jean Helpert. They have written a book series of the same name.
The animation is beautifully old-school, hearkening back to the 2D, hand-drawn cartoons of my youth. It’s subdued and streamlined, colorfully minimalist, and fits the feel of this coming-of-age mystery set in La Belle Époque.
An Orphan in La Belle Époque Paris
The series opens with a woman running for her life through the snowy winding streets of Montmartre. She grips her baby in her arms, as some rather menacing men are on her tail. She seeks refuge in a church, tearfully giving her child to the parish priest, Father Ménard, and entreating him to take care of her. The woman then runs into the wintry night, goons at her heels. The most menacing of the goons is a mysterious masked man with a silver cane.
Fast-forward over a decade later, and the babe has blossomed into a buoyant and beautiful young woman – Loulou. Loulou’s been lovingly raised by Léontine, a friend of Father Ménard’s, in the poor, Parisian quarter of Montmartre. While lacking money, Loulou has never lacked love or friendship. But changes are on their way.
Father Ménard spots the man with the silver cane and knows that these men still seek the child. Fearing for Loulou’s life, he ships her off to a boarding school in care of the nasty Madamoiselle Truchu. Poor as she is, Loulou is bullied by the richer girls at the school, an ostracization that Mademoiselle Truchu encourages.
Loulou knows nothing of her parents and their fates, but Father Ménard bequeaths to her a package that Loulou’s mother left with him that night long ago. In it are ballet slippers embroidered with a swan insignia. It’s a clue. You see, Loulou loves to dance and is naturally gifted in ballet, and that swan is part of a crest, an aristocratic family crest.
Twists and Turns Aplenty – A Melodramatic Feast
It goes from there. With help from her faithful friend, Gaby, a scrappy, streetwise journalist-in-training, Loulou begins to piece together the mystery of who she is and where she comes from. The man with the silver cane is on her trail. Underage, her life and its course are often at the whims of the adults, in whose care she is.
And sitting like a spider in his nefarious web is the dastardly Baron de Boisrobert, pulling all sorts of devilish strings. He’s got plans to raze Montmartre, control Paris, rule France and take over the world. Oh, he’s about as bad as they get, that man. Of course, he’s in cahoots with that menacing mystery man, the man with the silver cane.
Can Loulou uncover the truth of her past and who she is? Can she foil Boisrobert and outrun the man with the silver cane? Will she be allowed to develop and nurture her natural talent and dance?
On this journey of discovery, Loulou meets painters Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, visits the Exposition Universelle of 1900, dances the cancan in Moulin Rouge, survives fires and floods and assassination attempts, falls in with a freak show, and on it goes. Two young men fall in love with her, and she eventually has to figure out whom she loves. Like a perennially plucky and positive Pollyanna, our heroine keeps ticking, despite it all. Oh man, it’s a melodramatic feast.
Gripping Fun for the Whole Family
Loulou de Montmartre is the Grand Hotel, the Downton Abbey, the Bleak House, of children’s animation. Family secrets, deadly mysteries, star-crossed lovers, mistaken identities, deaths and resurrections – Loulou de Montmartre has it all. So, if you’re looking to introduce your wee ones to some good period (melo)dramas, this is an excellent place to start.
The ending was left open for a second season, but that has yet to materialize. I and my little ones will certainly be watching should a Season 2 ever hit the screen. As it currently is, we’ll just keep enjoying Season 1 on DVD. We’ve been through the series more than a few times now.
Content Note: There are some intense scenes, including more than a few deaths. But there is nothing graphic. It’s all very clean. No skin, no language, no innuendos. There is thematically mature material, but it is dealt with on a very child-friendly level.
Where to Watch: DVD.
Photo Credits: France 3.
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a
matter of chance.”