Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Trade Marks: Pyongyang

Guy Deslisle spent a couple of month's working for a French animation studio in North Korea's capital and all we got was this wonderful travelogue. Both Delisle's narrative and his artwork are straightforward and stripped of all but the essentials. This was an excellent approach. By taking a backseat to his surrounding, Delisle lets the lunacy of North Korea speaks for itself. This piece is at its best in its darkly humorous moments. Delisle is careful not to simply point and life at his subjects, ensuring that there is an underlying sense of pathos throughout the story. Some of what is revealed is simply jaw dropping, whereas other bits are more typical of life in any foreign land. I'll openly admit that Delisle is now responsible for approximately 80% of my knowledge about North Korea. The book is at its weakest when it began to spin its wheels a bit in the second half, making repeat visits to certain themes. but Delisle closing image, however, is very strong - leaving the reader both hopeful and depressed. Trade Mark: A-


Ray R. said...

I agree with your review. Delisle's minimalist drawing technique really matched up well with the subject. The alienation and surreal behavior was well-captured, although as you suggest, became a little overbearing after awhile. It was much more revealing about North Korea than probably any other source I've seen in recent memory.

BenoƮt Leblanc said...

"I'll openly admit that Delisle is now responsible for approximately 80% of my knowledge about North Korea"

Same here. I watched a documentary on North Korea a few years after reading Pyongyang and saw for real what Delisle had drawn, but didn't learn anything new. What an excellent book at all levels! It is the kind of comic I give as a birthday present to "serious" people.

Delisle's other books "Shenzhen" and "Burma chronicles" are as delightful, although without, perhaps, the urgency of Pyongyang. Nevertheless, they stand as some of modern comicdom's finest examples.