What a graphic novel! I didn’t know what to expect, except that Moving Pictures had to do with art and World War II. But one glance at that cover and I knew I had to take it home with me (well first requesting it from the library and then when it got to my branch could I actually take it home). The illustrations within were equally captivating. Black and white. Full of shadows. Stark and yet evocative, which fits the rather bleak setting. This graphic novel is worth a look just for the illustrations alone. Utterly gorgeous.
Of course a graphic novel isn’t just about the images, so I suppose I should tell you a bit about the story. Ila Gardner is a Canadian art curator working in France during the occupation by Germany. She’s cataloguing the museum’s inventory as France attempts to hide important works from the Germans. The Germans are doing the same at the same time, and Ila is being interviewed by German officer Rolf Hauptmann, who is working to trace all the artwork. But this is merely a backstory to the relationships that Ila has with Rolf and the art and the city.
In an interview with Torontoist, Kathryn Immonen said she was inspired after reading Janet Flanner’s Letters from Paris, which mentioned the cleaning of the Louvre was a by-product of the efforts to protect the individual works: “It was just so strange and funny. But I really started thinking about those guys with the rags and the cans of Pledge and the buckets of ammonia water, the small domestic activities that were a side effect of enormous global acts of violence.” I really liked how the spectre of the war looms over much of this graphic novel but is never central to the story. It is not about the military fighting the war or politicians planning their next move, but about these people living in Paris, trying to figure out how to get by and maintain some sort of semblance of their normal lives.