One of the many enduring pleasures of “Ernest & Celestine,” the 2014 French film about the unlikely bond between a bear and a mouse, is its rhapsodic bridging of music and imagery. The tale (based on books by Gabrielle Vincent) is rendered with gossamer line drawings so wedded to their accompanying score that the images sometimes ripple, swell and curl in tandem with the musical notes.
“Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia” is the gem of a sequel to that Oscar-nominated film, centering the story this time around on music as the sine qua non of community. The plucky, petite mouse Celestine (voiced by Pauline Brunner) and the surly troubadour Ernest (Lambert Wilson) trek to Ernest’s hometown, Gibberitia, a majestic but autocratic city in the mountains where music is no longer legal. Not even birds are exempt; tuneful warblers are shooed and hosed down by the police.
While the earlier film tilted toward Celestine, “A Trip to Gibberitia,” directed by Julien Chheng and Jean-Christophe Roger, hangs on Ernest, a prodigal cub who soon learns that his father, a state judge, instated the ban out of spite.
The brisk, lively plot has shades of a French Revolutionary spirit — a band of insurgent musicians call their underground movement “the resistance” — but the film’s real magic lies in the illustrations. Backdrops brim with painterly detail, and tiny changes in characters’ faces convey worlds of feeling. In a film whose moral emphasizes the necessity of artistic freedom, there is a deceptive simplicity to this aesthetic style that makes it all the more special.
Ernest and Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia
Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes. In theaters.