Screening date: November 11th, 2012
Director: Patrice Leconte
Starring: Bernard Alane, Isabelle Spade, Kacey Mottet Klein
This month saw the start of the French Film Festival UK with venues around the country showing a wide range of films from across the channel. On Sunday, the Glasgow Film Theatre held the first performance of the animated black-comedy, The Suicide Shop (Le Magasin des Suicides). Set in a dull metropolis so depressing the citizens have no choice but to end their lives, the Tuvache family business of selling suicide is booming. However, things start to go awry when new arrival, Alan, upsets the status-quo with his sunny outlook on life. Based on Jean Teule’s novel of the same name, Patrice Leconte has added musical numbers which help evoke the dark tones of the film in a light-hearted manner making The Suicide Shop a delight to watch.
The animation is a blend of hand-drawn design and digital technology that allows the image to remain clear and precise while maintaining character and heart. Because of this, it’s visually more Disney than Chomet yet reminiscent of Tim Burton rather than princesses. With all the rounded shapes in today’s animation, it’s nice to see a great example of 2D design especially when it can provide an easy insight to the characters and the city. The opening shows a dreary city as a lone pigeon begins to fly through, witnessing the many citizens quick to end their lives, often in shadowy sihouette.
The subject matter of death and suicide is rarely treated as treated as off-colour with even officers of the law cold-heartedly issuing fines to those who have committed public suicide instead of disposing of the soon-to-be-rotting corpse. Even the members of the Tuvache regret their inability to end their lives as they must provide the service to others more in need. The only character who seems perturbed by this group depression is the positive and full of life Alan. Born smiling, Alan is the disgrace of the family, greeting customers happily and wishing to see them soon instead of a issuing simple farewell. Eventually, he decides to rescue the sad souls of the city beginning with his sister who transforms from a moody teenager to a dancing joy with a brighter appearance. The unfortunate consequence, however, is the father’s homicidal rage at his contrary son.
While the use of songs quickly conveys character arcs and plotlines in varying colourful and surreal ways, the lyrics are often overly repetitive and a little unsatisfying. However, this was not helped by the unfortunate lack of attached subtitles forcing the GFT to provide them manually. This lead to a few scenes, particularly those with songs, having the subtitles out of sync or sometimes not there at all, something which would have destroyed the experience if we had not be warned about it prior to the screening.
Otherwise, this film is a delight. Played as a mirror on our own world with financial problems and the overbearing presence of cynicism and depression, it manages to create an easy mix of macabre sensibilities with colourful optimism. While the ending is perhaps a little too simplistic, it’s definitely worth a watch if you can catch it.
‘The Suicide Shop’ will be shown at various venues in the UK as part of the French Film Festival, performances in 3D are indicated by stars (**).
Warwick Arts Centre Sat 17 Nov 18:30
London Ciné Lumière Sun 18 Nov 16:15
Dundee DCA Sun 18 Nov 18:00 **
Edinburgh Filmhouse Sat 24 Nov 16:15 **