If there’s one thing I hate when I read comics or other books, or watch movies, or do other stuff, it’s when titles and marketing are totally misleading. (I mean, there are lots of one-thing-I-hate’s, but this is one of them.) Let me hit you with a couple of examples. Hugo, the Martin Scorsese film from 2011, is billed as a great adventure. It’s not an adventure. Good movie? Perhaps. Adventure? No. I saw Identity Thief a couple of weeks ago and felt the same way. It’s billed as a comedy, and it’s more of a tragedy. Or a travesty.
So, as I turned the pages of Christian Durieux’s An Enchantment, the latest installment in a series of graphic works commissioned by the Louvre, I was pleased to find exactly what I was looking for.
Sepia-toned on the outside and the inside, and in its dreamlike, reverential art and narrative, An Enchantment is a book that does not feel like it is trying to do too much, and it does not fail in what it does do.
Durieux, a Belgian artist working in France, uses a light hand in setting the scene for his narrative, which follows the Louvre’s retiring director on a nighttime sneak through the museum with a young lady-friend.
We follow the director as he retraces parts of his past with his new friend, and although the narrative is touching at moments, the book quickly becomes more about the place than about the people. Durieux sends his characters through dozens of rooms in the museum, and he does a stunning job of filling out the setting.
In some ways, though, the book feels like it is stretching in separate directions. On the one hand, Durieux never pretends that his story is any bigger than it turns out to be, and he winds up with a nice narrative and interesting artwork. On the other hand, the book is a physically large item, and it seems to demand a story with a slightly wider lens.
An Enchantment was commissioned by the Louvre, so it was to be expected that we would be spending most of our time exploring the museum. That’s something that Durieux does exceptionally well in this book, to the extent that I’m not sure I’ve seen that type of detail on a single (non-fictional) setting. The Louvre is a unique and wonderful space, and Durieux captures so much of its character in his panels.
Still, the book seems a bit limited by the space. The story pushes the limits in terms of how many pages the setting can fill without feeling overdone, but it feels like it could have been more if Durieux (or his financier, the Louvre) would have zoomed out to include the city. For dreamlike narratives, there probably is no more appropriate city than Paris, and with Durieux’s attention to detail and talent for welcoming readers into a setting, I think a book in and about the city of Paris might have had huge potential.
But then, of course, it wouldn’t have told the story Durieux is really after here. In his post-script, Durieux talks about creating “a poetry of comic books,” and he is at his most poetic when describing the Louvre: “The Louvre is bestirred by silent movements, rustlings, tears, and hidden smiles.” (You read it and just know that the French version must be that much more romantic.)
If An Enchantment had to be confined to that building, the Louvre certainly commissioned an artist whose love of the museum and all of its art, culture, and history saturates the pages. Our museum director’s romp through the building feels like a history lesson—of the building and of its art—and without the boring parts of your typical history lessons—and a celebration of classical art. Durieux’s use of digital versions of the paintings depicted in the book can be somewhat jarring, but it also confirms the artist’s commitment to the museum and its art.
An Enchantment starts slow but ends well, which is one reason I think it merits at least two reads. And, if you’re paying the cover price for it, you will probably feel like you should be reading three or four times. I’m not sure An Enchantment meets its cover price, but it is an interesting work that was clearly produced with passion and care.
TL;DR: An Enchantment delivers exactly what it promises in a sepia-toned dreamscape exploring the world of the Louvre. Worth a few reads to really absorb the entire work.
An Enchantment is written and illustrated by Christian Durieux. A project commissioned by the Louvre, the English edition is published by NBM Publishing as a part of their In the Louvre collection. You can ask for your local comic book shop to order it for you or, support Spandexless by purchasing through our Amazon web store.
A review copy of An Enchantment was graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher.
EDITOR'S NOTE: NBM is a sister-company to Papercutz, where Beth works. Other than some italics and photos, she was in no way involved in the writing or editing of this review.
Jake Grubman is, above all else, a beagle enthusiast. He has been a cart attendant at Target, pizza delivery driver, women's shoe salesman, customer service representative, and English teacher in Malaysia. You can find more of his writing at The Chill and follow him on @JakeGrubman.