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July 17, 2017 | by  | in Film |
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My Life As A Courgette — Claude Barras

All I have to say about the film tonight is that I’ll be astounded if you don’t all love it.

When I got an email from the New Zealand International Film Festival organisers, I was saddened that the first sentence of their message did not contain the words “free tickets.” My spirits were however lifted almost immediately as the next sentence contained the very similar phrases “free food and drink, and a free screening.” I turned up to the official programme release, and happily indulged in a French animation (with an American overdub) entitled My Life As A Courgette (or Zucchini, for American audiences). Animated films are often wonders to behold, both mainstream and experimental, and this film is no exception. Set in a bleak world from a nine-year old’s perspective, there is a narrative that is short, sweet, and offers a remarkable thesis on life and love through the dialogue and antics of a handful of orphans and strays.

Evidently the world is a dark, unloving, adult place to these children, and they know they certainly won’t find a place within it easily. What they can do, however, is to learn to love themselves and each other. In typical French fashion, the satisfaction here comes from the contrast of joy and sadness. Every scene has shadows pooled in the corner, and the comedy is blissfully naive as often as it is sullenly dark. The characters themselves are also far more disturbed than any of their Disney contemporaries, so any catharsis or emotional gratification comes as a sharp relief and brings the film to a perfect balance. It is refreshing to find a film for young ages that is not afraid to admit that life is dark, unfair, and sad, but encourages us to make the best of it and keep moving forward. Christ, dozens of films for adults can’t even admit that. The most that characters in rom-com dramas often have to deal with is “why won’t they love me back!?” and “why is life so hard!?” These characters are seldom deserving of the sympathy that I gave so willingly to this particular band of animated French miscreants.

There’s not much to say plot-wise — I called the film short and sweet; it is literally an hour long — but every little moment and sequence builds the characters and takes the audience on an emotional voyage far greater than such a run time would suggest. It is a film that could only come from France, a country that seems to draw its strength somewhat from keeping issues out in the open rather than bottling their feelings up. Many French films address depression, grief, sex, longing, isolation, inadequacy, passion, and more in matter-of-fact ways, and this film addresses at least four of these concepts. All I can say is that, to me, it’s about as refreshing as cinema can get.

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