500 Days Of Film Reviews Stop Motion Animation, My Life As A Courgette
Icare is nine years old. He prefers to be called Courgette, the nickname his mother gave him.
After her sudden death, Courgette meets a policeman called Raymond who takes him to a foster home. There, Courgette meets a group of children who, like him, believe they have nobody left to love them.
Together they form a strong bond, supporting each other - becoming a family.
Is It Any Good?
On paper, My Life As A Courgette (or My Life As A Zucchini in the US) sounds rather distressing. Claude Barras’ first feature animation (based on Gilles Paris’s book Autobiographie d’une Courgette) tells the story of abandoned children who have been emotionally and physically damaged.
The director describes his film as “an homage to neglected and mistreated children who do the best they can to survive and live with their wounds”.
As a result, I ventured into my screening of My Life As A Courgette with caution - armed with not one but two packs of tissues. Was I going to be an emotional wreck by the end of the film?
Well, yes and no.
This is a movie with huge emotional power. I left the cinema deeply moved by My Life As A Courgette. However, while he does not shy away from many difficult issues, Barras aims to capture your heart not your tears.
In addition, thanks to Céline Sciamma’s wonderfully observed script, the film is also brilliantly funny. It made me laugh all the way through.
Really, the only distressing part of this poignant, charming and beautiful stop motion animation is its length - the movie is only 66 minutes long. And yet, as much as it left me (selfishly) wanting more, this running time is also perfect. Barras conveys more in these 66 minutes than most films do in two hours.
The animation style of My Life As A Courgette brings the work of director, Tim Burton, to mind. The film’s characters have colourful over-large heads and huge expressive eyes (talk about the windows of the soul). These eyes positively shine with emotion.
Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me just how much feeling such animated creations can convey. A shrug, a wink and a glance feel far more powerful here than is often the case in the world of live action.
“My Life As A Courgette is meant to be a film that focuses on the private world of its characters’ inner lives,” Barras explains. “It was important to me to allow time for small gestures, facial expressions, eye-blinks, moments of waiting.
"A bird couple’s turpitudes while they build their nest, urban landscapes, skies filled with clouds, thunderstorms and brighter horizons mirror commotions in the characters’ souls. I often used long sequence shots on looks and emotions rather than the shots/counter-shots, typically used in animation. This gives the film a unique, fairly slow rhythm.”
My Life As A Courgette is also a film that refuses to adhere to established tropes and traditional stereotypes. The foster home is a place of refuge and even the resident bully, Simon, is given tender treatment. Meanwhile, social workers and policemen are empathetic and good at their jobs.
It is, in fact, the outside world that is threatening and scary in this movie. In several heartbreaking scenes, the children are viewed with prejudice and suspicion that feels utterly cruel and completely unjustified - all these children want is to be loved.
However, their bond is strong and the joy of My Life As A Courgette is to see the children defy their past, make a family within their foster home and come into their own. As a result, Barras’ film left me feeling uplifted.
My Life As A Courgette has completely stolen my heart - everyone should watch this gorgeous animated movie.
I watched the French language, subtitled version of My Life As A Courgette. This features brilliant performances from the young, non-professional voice cast. I have not watched the dubbed version but I think I will as I hear that it is also very good.
I do think that everyone should watch this film… however, a word of warning, the movie features a couple of (utterly hilarious) conversations about sex.
My Life As A Courgette was nominated for an Oscar at the 2017 Academy Awards. In an extremely tough and competitive category, I believe that Claude Barras’ film should have won. In the end, the award went to Zootopia (which I also really enjoyed).
The puppets In My Life As A Courgette are about 25cm/10in high, and were handcrafted combining several materials (latex foam for the hair, silicone for the arms, resin for the face, fabric for the hand-sewn clothing) wrapped around an articulated skeleton.
According to Barras: “Sixty-or-so sets had to be created and painted as well as fifty-four puppets in three types of costumes. We then, over a period of eight months, shot seventy minutes of film, dispatched amongst fifteen film sets at the rhythm of three seconds per day and per animator. Eight additional months were needed to add the soundtrack to the film and assemble all the shots on a green background with the foreground shots, background shots, skies, clouds and other computer-generated background scenery."
Sophie Hunger’s score for My Life As A Courgette is utterly gorgeous.
Before directing My Life as Courgette, Claude Barras directed several short films including The Genie in a Ravioli Can, which received many awards in film festivals around the world.
Have you seen My Life As A Courgette?
If you have, what did you think of this animated feature? Let me know in the comments section below or come find me over on Twitter or Facebook!