Last night I managed to stream Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Notre Dame On Fire, which opened in France last March and in England two days ago, and will apparently play on U.S. IMAX screens before long.
The first half is pretty good as far as this kind of thing goes (the blending of recreated moments along with genuine footage is perfect), and the second half — when things got heavy and scary and a few heroic firemen had to step in and save the day within a 15-minute window — is excellent. Seriously, the last half-hour is worth the price of admission in itself.
I’m thinking I’d like to see it again in IMAX — last night’s viewing was on the 65″ Sony, and in 720p.
There’s a little too much sentimental attention paid to the cathedral’s spiritual aura as well as rescuing priceless artifacts (including, we’re told, the original crown of thorns worn by Jesus on his day of crucifixion and even a vial of his blood) and there are infuriating passages when key players are stuck in Paris traffic (get out of the car and hop on a motorcycle) but this is life when tragedy strikes — mistakes are made, banal stuff gets in the way, etc.
In some ways it’s similar to John Guillermin and Irwin Allen‘s The Towering Inferno (’74). There’s no Richard Chamberlain villain who creates conditions that lead to disaster, but the fire is initially ignored by way of carelessness and laziness, as it is in Inferno. No characters are emotionally conflicted and no one (thank fortune) falls to their deaths, but there’s a kind of Paul Newman-type architect character who knows the cathedral and saves the crown of thorns, and there’s definitely a couple of Steve McQueen-type firemen heroes who climb up and into the twin bell towers and manage to finally put the fire out with only a few minutes to spare. Which is what McQueen and Newman accomplished in the final stretch of Inferno.
Plus there’s footage of French president Emmanuel Macron, not speaking but obviously “playing” himself.
Donald Trump is made fun of for tweeting that helicopters should dump water on the burning church from the air, but that’s exactly what I was thinking when it happened. Vacuum water from the Seine into tanks, and then fly over the cathedral and releases dozens or even hundreds of gallons at a pop. Perhaps that kind of drenching might have threatened the Notre Dame structure, but it seemed to make sense at the time.