(1979)4Craig ButlerAn extraordinary animated film that remains little known in the United States (and much of the rest of the world), Le Roi et L'Oiseau is the kind of film that aficionados will go far out of their way to track down. Begun in 1948 but abandoned and not completed until 1979, Roi is a marvel of both animation and story telling. Freely drawn from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, Jacques Prevert and Paul Grimault's screenplay is suffused with lyricism yet never falls prey to preciousness or inertia; indeed, it's an always lively film, yet one that manages a considerable degree of subtlety in its telling. And Roi features an end that is both marvelous and stunning. As director (one of many functions he filled on this film), Grimault's work is thrilling, inventive, surprising and lovely. His strong, sure command of the narrative enables him to add details and tiny side trips that add textures and layers to the story and the characters. The animation is superb, some of the best ever committed to film, and the design, especially the architecture, is nothing short of fantastic. Roi is a timeless tale, a truly adult fairy tale, that enlightens, entertains, charms, engrosses and disturbs. In short, a masterpiece.