Sunday, 9 October 2016

LFF 2016 REVIEW - MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE (CLAUDE BARRAS)


In little more than an hour, Claude Barras and Celine Sciamma etch out a portrait of a whole world, created from the fabric of reality, both emotionally and physically. The tactility of stop-motion and the exaggeration of My Life as a Courgette's character design, constructing a world that feels real due to its dedication to artifice - the technical details that only adorn the stunning depth and power of this film's empathy. Barras and Sciamma, and the writer of the source novel, Gilles Paris, display a steadfast, accurate and hugely affecting appreciation of the thought processes and behavioural characteristics of children, and not just any children, but those with most troubled histories. If the precision of their collective approach engenders our empathy alongside theirs, it's the ways in which each element of that approach is combined with another that allows My Life as a Courgette to catch the viewer off guard, to engender emotions we hadn't even had cause to recollect, never mind expect. Subtle, insightful details in the framing, or the voice acting, or the exact calibration of tone in this ambitiously broad-ranging film reveal a limitless degree of perspectives within this cast of a small few characters, and the sensitivity of the film's staging will bring to mind one affective memory after another. We can all relate to being a child, but My Life as a Courgette is so exceptionally strong in eliciting close relations between itself and us that it convinces us to relate to foreign and unfamiliar experiences. That empathy: it doesn't just coax it out, it creates it anew. Not long into this outstanding film, one's response to the layered ambiguity, the tonal bravado, and the technical mastery will be of absolute submission - to relinquish all expectations and to resign oneself to the knowledge that, no matter where the filmmakers choose to take their film, our confidence in its quality need never diminish. And indeed, it only augments again and again.