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The Books > #21: The Castafiore Emerald

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message 1: by Sammy (new)

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
The Castafiore Emerald sees all hell descend upon Marlinspike Hall during what was supposed to be a peaceful vacation for Tintin and Captain Haddock. First, Roma gypsies - turned away from reasonable living areas by the police - are forced to take up residence on Marlinspike's land. Then, Bianca Castafiore invites herself to stay - pursued by assistants, pianists, reporters and others. With the combined confusion caused by Thompson and Thomson, Professor Calculus, Snowy and a damaged marble step, the Captain finds himself stuck at home amidst growing mystery and confusion.

In 1961, Hergé was involved in the creation of Tintin's first live-action film, "Tintin and the Golden Fleece". As it was released, he was convinced to return to writing stories for his young reporter, however was still determined to play with the formula. To keep himself interested, Herge decided that Tintin's 21st adventure would take place entirely within the confines of Marlinspike Hall - and on top of that, nothing much would really happen.

As with Red Rackham's Treasure and the recent Tintin in Tibet, there would be no villain. Instead, Herge focused on the farcical elements of the mystery: adding depth to his characters, creating confusion and mistaken situations, and putting together a cleverly constructed work.

"The Castafiore Emerald" was published between 1961 and 1962, and released in album form in both French and English in 1963. It was to be followed by another live-action film, "Tintin and the Blue Oranges", which Herge was barely involved with and which signalled the end of Tintin's live-action film era. Herge himself took four years off from the series, deciding to return to his love of painting instead. In the meantime, his fans would have to rely on the 21 stories they had, and wait.

"The Castafiore Emerald" has been adapted twice: first as a two-part episode of the 1990s animated series, and then as the final episode of the BBC Radio series. It aired as an hour-long special on December 26, 1993.

Links:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cast...

Tintinologist: http://www.tintinologist.org/guides/b...

24 Days of Tintin: http://www.tintinologist.org/guides/b...


message 2: by Merry (new)

Merry | 34 comments This is one of only two albums that never leaves Belgium, however the other (The Secret of the Unicorn) features a large flashback sequence set on the high seas.


message 3: by Sammy (last edited Nov 14, 2010 08:14PM) (new)

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
My review:

This is it: Tintin's least formulaic adventure, and Herge's greatest stylistic experiment. That's not to say it's necessarily the best in the series, but "The Castafiore Emerald" completes a five-album cycle in which Herge perfected his craft. (Explorers on the Moon gave him his greatest artistic challenge; The Calculus Affair was the height of his skills as an artist; The Red Sea Sharks was a perfect story; and he capped all this off with the emotional study that is Tintin in Tibet)

The story is well-known by now: tiring, like Captain Haddock, of adventures, Herge decided to test his own skill by doing a story in which "nothing much happens". In this adventure, Castafiore is one of many unwanted visitors at Marlinspike, throwing Haddock's blissful life into disarray. Herge continually teases with the idea of an adventure - there are Roma people living on the land with suspicious motives; there are shady men pursuing Castafiore; the diva herself is in fear that her emeralds will be stolen, and the actions of her entourage indicate something malevolent. Instead, all but one of these proves to be a red herring. And even then, the one that does come true doesn't happen until three-quarters through the narrative!

The artist has great fun drawing a light farce, as most of this album is. Some pages are entirely filled with people talking in a room. He beautifully plays with depth and the art of the comedy of manners, and very much enjoys the slow burn of Haddock's halcyon days becoming but a distant memory. Some of the best moments include the gorgeous artwork of the gypsies by a late-night fire, Snowy's amusing asides to the reader ("I can't stand animals who talk!", that delightfully underplayed cover, and Calculus' invention (preceding the real world unveiling) of colour television. This sequence is clearly a labour of love for the artist, who spends many frames playing around with Calculus' invention, and subsequently turns his own artwork into the fuzzy static of an old television set.

By its very nature, of course, nothing happens, and all rumblings of discontent reveal themselves to be either red herrings, or at the least unexpected trivialities. Certainly, for this reason, I can't imagine this work will be made into one of Spielberg's films any time soon! But that is, of course, its aim - and Herge succeeds in capturing our attention even without the aid of pirates, rockets, abominable snowmen or any of the other diversions which he had recently employed.

Of course, there is still plenty going on here to justify the album's existence. The plight of the Roma is deftly handled, with Haddock quicker these days to learn from his prejudices. Herge cleverly explores the prejudice on both sides of the issue - with characters on both 'our' side and that of the Roma who are bigoted, and those who aren't. Beyond this, the general sense of foreboding in the air makes the album's location come alive: Marlinspike genuinely feels well-populated, and it's truly a joy to see Tintin, Calculus, Haddock et al in their home environment.

And La Castafiore, a vibrant character in all her appearances, is put to great use here too. She may be the least dimensional person in the album, but the diva is a force to be reckoned with, and never fails to steal the show.

In fact, when all is said and done I can't think of much to complain about. (Note the sly reference in the very first frame, which will ultimately explain the mystery.) As with "Tintin in Tibet", I'm certainly glad it was a one-time experiment: these albums must by design be langorously paced, and as such offer a little less on future readings. But this is an achievement which should be more appreciated amongst Tintin fans.


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