An Enchantment (NBM/ComicsLit)

 A museum director meets an otherworldly woman in the halls of the Louvre in this lavishly illustrated "graphic poem."

 

 

72 pgs., full color, $19.99
(W / A: Christian Durieux)
 
No expense is spared for the Louvre’s museum director’s retirement banquet. A small army of waiters climbs the museums steps carrying trays thick with wine glasses. Secret Service types with squiggly wires snaking out of their ears patrol the museum. Dignitaries and colleagues gather beneath a massive early 19th century painting depicting the coronation of Emperor Napoleon I, waiting to give the director a sendoff. But the director will have none of it. Rather than allow the evening to go as planned, he swipes two bottles of wine and retreats into the dark of the closed museum. While hiding from security, he encounters a mysterious, beautiful woman and together they have a strange and wonderful night in Christian Durieux’s An Enchantment.
 
“Quite naively,” Durieux writers in An Enchantment‘s afterword, “I’d like to create a poetry of comic books.” Likewise, rather than calling it a graphic novel, the cover of the book calls it a “Graphic Poem.” Naive or not, I’d say Durieux achieves his goal. In many ways, An Enchantment feels more like a poem than a story. We never learn the proper names of the director or the mysterious woman he follows through the Louvre. Their banter often feels more like poetry than dialogue—like the speech you’d expect to hear in a dream. You could say the same about their actions. The director seems curious about where the woman came from or what she’s doing in the Louvre, but he never seems particularly concerned about it. They joke and dance. They drink wine and leave their shoes scattered throughout the museum as a strange prank for the security guards and banquet guests to wonder over. Their antics are fun to watch and the director’s ruminations of his life are affecting, but if it were a proper story we would want to know why the director puts so much trust in the woman so easily, how they could possibly evade security as long as they do, or the exact nature of this ghostly beauty. But there is a delicious unreality to it that is intoxicating and allows us to shrug off our usual concerns.
 
We never truly learn the identity of the woman. She could be a ghost, a personification of the museum itself, a hallucination, a dream, or all of the above. Except for her startling blue eyes, Dureiux colors the woman and her clothes, from head-to-toe, the same color as the walls of the museum, so it’s clear there is a connection between her and the Louvre. Nor do we ever learn exactly what the director’s fate means in real world terms, if any. Nothing is explained to us, and it doesn’t seem particularly important.
 
I don’t know whether Durieux recreated the many real world paintings for An Enchantment himself or if the images were otherwise inserted into the book. If they were Durieux’s work, it’s quite impressive, and they’re absolutely vital to this graphic poem. The wonderful irony of the book is that the paintings feel more real than the cartoon world they inhabit—wonderfully fitting considering An Enchantment‘s ending.
 
An Enchantment is an ambitious work and one worth checking out. It’s romantic, affecting, charming, fun, and utterly beautiful. | Mick Martin

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