The Milwaukee Children's Film Festival presents "Le Tableau" Oct. 6 and 7.
The Milwaukee Children's Film Festival presents "Le Tableau" Oct. 6 and 7.

"Le Tableau" paints a lush story for all ages

The best children's movies are those with universal appeal. Often, though, that appeal is achieved with snappy double entendres and gimmicks that, while well done, are forced to fly over kids' heads to find an audience.

I'm sure it's no picnic for the kids, who have to sit there wondering why their parents are laughing at something they don't even understand, but it's also the movie doing a disservice to itself by not finding a way to entertain both generations at once.

"Le Tableau," on the other hand, makes catering to every age of its audience look as easy as Color by Numbers art. It's a simple story of the Allduns, Halfies and Sketchies, three segregated races of people that inhabit an unfinished painting. The completed Allduns lord over the framed realm believing themselves to be The Painter's favorites, while the Halfies and fragile Sketchies live in the shadows of their exclusive and opulent castle.

In the midst of this tense world is Lola, a young Halfie who dreams of finding The Painter and settling the conflicts between his creations. She's motivated by the forbidden love between her best friend, a Halfie named Claire, and Ramo, an Alldun.

After the Allduns' prejudices escalate as a result of Ramo's behavior, he, Lola and a Sketchie named Quill set off to find The Painter and settle things for good.

The film embraces both sweetness and sadness, from Lola's intrepid kindness to the Allduns' savage treatment of the Sketchies. What makes the story unique, though, is its accessibility. Even though the subject matter is flush with weighty metaphors and morality, it's delivered through clean, simple storytelling.

The plot becomes more complex as it moves on, but "Le Tableau" doesn't shy away from building on its tale. Instead, it develops in a way that allows younger audience members to rise to the occasion and take in more of what's going on without sacrificing the engagement of its older members.

While the story is beautiful in its own right, the visuals of "Le Tableau" are impeccable. The scenes take advantage of a full-spectrum palette to convey a diverse range of moods. Each setting is expressive in its own right – so much so that the film's subtitles (and even dialogue, to an extent) are practically unnecessary.

With a well-developed narrative and enchanting visuals, "Le Tableau" has crafted a whimsical and touching film. Its charms are irresistible, its artistry is mesmerizing and its characters are as well-developed as any live-action production -- even if some of them are just sketches on the screen.

"Le Tableau" screens Saturday, Oct. 6 at 11 a.m. and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 1:30 p.m. at the Fox-Bay Cinema Grill.

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