TV-MA and that's pretty accurate. Despite the majority of the movie being a love story that has a weird and funky element to it, there is a severed hand that makes his way around a city, fighting off all kids of horrible things. There's a lot of blood. There's a lot of language. It's terrifying because the foreshadowing is so intense around the film. Like, it gets to a really uncomfortable level of suspense that I actually stopped the movie, caught my breath, and continued watching. TV-MA.
DIRECTOR: Jérémy Clapin
My wife instantly went "no" to the first ten minutes of this movie. I don't blame her. It's not her thing. The first few minutes of this movie are super-duper gory and it makes the rest of the movie look like it is going to be a really high concept movie. I mean, it still is pretty high concept. When I finished the movie by myself and told her that the movie was actually this pretty intense romance, I found myself shocked saying that is what the movie was about. I suppose that I'm a bigger fan of tragic romances than happy ending romances. But this movie worked when I just started thinking that it didn't.
The beginning of the movie really screams "short film." As a short film concept, I would probably be would be losing my mind over what a cool concept it was. But honestly, the hand thing is the thing that works the least for me in the movie. Yeah, it is this conceit that reminds me that a genre doesn't have to be one thing. It opens my mind to more fantastical ideas than simply "this is a story about a boy who can't tell a girl that he likes her." In that way, I suppose that conceit works really well. It does force me to get out of my comfort zone about what a romance could and should be and gets me to take it to the next level. That's what this animated film does best; it takes the idea of the romance to new places and I absolutely adore that.
The thing about when genres fuse, they tend to be far too tongue-in-cheek for much greatness to shine through. The ultimate exception is Shaun of the Dead, one of my favorite films. But Shaun of the Dead has an advantage that I Lost My Body lacks. Shaun is a comedy. I know that people say that comedy is hard, but we tend to be really forgiving of comedies when it comes to exploring this genre fusion. I don't know what it is. There seems to be something self-aware about high concept splicing where neither actual genre is served. I Lost My Body is a fusion of horror and romance and both genres are treated respectfully. My theory is because the genres don't actually mix that much. For the majority of the film, the crawling hand, while sympathetic, stays away from the protagonist of the film. The protagonist of the film has his story. The hand has its story. Yeah, they interact in the end, but even that is at the end of both characters' journeys.
This split allows storytelling to progress unhindered. It's like Game of Thrones. Much of that storytelling really worked because individual plotlines seemed to be told in isolation. We knew of the multiple threads existing at the same time, but that only added to the suspense and curiosity of what would happen when those disparate storylines interacted. And that's the tease throughout the film. We are allowed and encouraged to bond with each character's narrative separately. They became fully fleshed out (pun intended) and we could continue from there. When genres are truly blended, it takes a master storyteller who is able to divorce themselves from overindulgence to tell a great story, regardless of concept.
There's a lot going on here. The complexities for romance tend to work better. If you've read this blog for a long period of time, you know that I can get pretty cynical about romances. Romances, in particular romantic comedies, tend to get really into lazy trope stuff. Filmmakers and studios know what sells and they keep recycling a lot of the same stuff. Instead, I Lost My Body can be called a romance simply because the protagonist's main goal is to enamor the girl he likes. But Naoufel has a complicated backstory. The fact that this story ends in a bittersweet way, with Naoufel perhaps lower than ever, encourages a tragic backstory. I don't think we get a lot of that in romances. Usually, a romantic male lead tends to be a confident guy who is kind of a jerk. But Naoufel has more than simply a harder life because of popularity. Naoufel is a reminder of the trials of the orphan / refugee.
The contrast between Naoufel's old life and his new life reminds me of a modern day Les Miserables. Through the existence of a hard universe full of difficult people, Naoufel never really seems to catch a break. Because he is thrust into an unfair lower caste, this bright kid who could realistically be conquering the world is stuck serving pizzas, Spider-Man 2 style. There's this weird thought that poor people realistically should be able to pull themselves up from their bootstraps, but I Lost My Body reminds us that the world is against the impoverished. It becomes painfully clear that Naoufel can't really ever succeed in his job. While he tries with all of his might to deliver pizzas on time, the world is a far more challenging place than that.
When love is presented to him in context of a difficult life, that romance becomes all the more important. This is where the real cynic comes out. I desperately want the relationship to work out, but Naoufel is also kind of toxic. He's definitely the hero of the story. He is doing his best despite his own fears and phobias. But the right thing to do is to be honest in that moment. Instead, Naoufel's misguided understanding of what someone wants just covers up the fact that the only right thing to do is to ask the voice on the speaker out there and then. Over the course of the film, Naoufel really kind of stalks Gabrielle. He inserts himself into her life as some grand gesture. But that's a lot of pressure to put on someone and I respect the fact that the film doesn't applaud his gestures.
This is tragic, but appropriate. While my heart weeps for Naoufel and his broken heart --a fine companion for his broken life --that kind of behavior is a really old way of thinking. Is taking his hand a bit much? Oh my goodness, yes. But narrative storytelling has rewarded those choices for decades and I Lost My Body is a strong reminder that women aren't just one thing. Everyone is complex. They aren't something just to be wooed, but treated like a person. Naoufel should expect Gabrielle to just love him instantly and that message is conveyed.
So then why the loss of a hand? We all knew that he was going to lose his hand, right? The movie telegraphs that pretty intensely. That part is pretty clear. When you write everyday, you tend to write your mental issues out through your repetitive writing. I got all kinds of family things. I constantly lose it when a movie deals with dead fathers. The hand is fun to animate and it does what a ghost cannot do. The living hand takes damage. It evokes empathy. It is extremely fragile. The hand does a good job of representing the need of a father to take care of his kid. Because Naoufel, despite the fact that he makes a major mistake in his life choices, is never actually a bad person. The hand is the desire to take care of a kid who can't take care of himself. But he can take care of himself. Sure, it involves him chopping off his own hand, but that's a kind of self-care. There is a lot of "this looks cool" behind the hand, but I don't slap that hand down. I think it works for the most part.
Yeah, it won't ever win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but I do want people to watch this movie. It hit me pretty hard and I know I can't be alone here.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.