Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Life as a Courgette - charming animation refuses to simplify life's cruelty for kids (QFT until 8 June)

My Life as a Courgette is a charming, hour-long, stop-motion animation directed by Claude Barras and written by CĂ©line Sciamma (based on a novel by Gilles Paris).

A nine year old boy nicknamed ‘Courgette’ is neglected by his alcoholic mother and abandoned by his father. One day she is in a rage and Courgette protects himself, resulting in a tragic accident. Taken to an orphanage, he finds that the other children are as cruel as the adults are kind and welcoming.

Children viewing the film will sense that real life is on show. They’ll understand the way Courgette records what is happening through drawings he shares with people he cares about. It’s a forlorn movie with none of the schmaltz of Annie. Each child’s back story leaves a legacy of misery and trauma. The director understands that children don’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool and protected from the effects of substance abuse, asylum, crime and depression.

Yet as the group overcome jealousy and insecurity, they bond like a tight-knit family unit. And Camille’s arrival brings joy into the heart of Courgette, but also introduces jeopardy as an evil aunt wants to take her home.

The film explores what children feel after traumatic events, and examines the (sometimes overlapping) role of victims and perpetrators, as well as the process of adoption in which children’s voices can ignored or silenced. Adults will laugh at the kids’ very childish understanding of (and fascination with) the mechanics of sex.

The fabricated characters are beautifully textured and crudely coloured, with oversized heads, eyes like saucers and stick-out ears. Arms are slender and unnaturally long, stretching down to mid-shin. Door handles are affixed very low down, as if the characters are undersized and immature for the world in which they live.

A fascinating – albeit melancholic – world has been created, but one filled with more hope than despair. Well worth 66 minutes of your life to watch.

If you’re reading in the US, this film is marketed as My Life as a Zucchini.

Queen’s Film Theatre is showing both the version originale Ma vie de Courgette (with English subtitles) as well as the dubbed version until 8 June.

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