I Lost My Body

 

starstarstarstar

 


Stunning moments in an acclaimed film that does not fully cohere.

 

I Lost My Body

  

The initial impact of this film by Jérémy Clapin is tremendous - but that is no surprise since this is the work that won this year's Grand Prize of the Critics Week at Cannes, the first animated feature to do so. Its originality can hardly be exaggerated for, as the title indicates, this is a story centred on a severed hand, one  lost in an accident, and much of the piece invites us to follow the adventures of this hand after it scampers away and undergoes a whole range of experiences in Paris.

 

Taken from a novel by Guillaume Laurant and adapted for the screen by him and by Clapin working together, the very concept is evidence of how imaginative this film is. That applies to treating a hand as an object just as capable as any conventional hero figure of arousing sympathetic identification from the audience, but it is no less present in the brilliant soundtrack, be it the music score by Don Levy or the telling use of natural sounds. The sheer originality of I Lost My Body stands out even if the revelation that the hand had belonged to a youth named Naoufel leads us into a love story. The object of Naoufel's affections is Gabrielle and he is enraptured from the start. That's so even though their first encounter involves no sight of her: Naoufel is a pizza delivery boy who belatedly arrives with her order and they engage in a long conversation over the intercom of the block where she lives on the 35th floor. It makes for a very appealing offbeat sequence.

 

Since the film has opened with scenes featuring the detached hand, the story of Naoufel's romantic obsession over Gabrielle (he even takes a new job with her uncle to get closer to her) is, in effect, told through a series of flashbacks. In the same way there are early scenes (mainly in black and white, but still a contrast to the use of a rather subdued colour palette) which look back to Naoufel's childhood in the period before his parents died. These elements ensure that the film reaches feature length, but as it proceeds, two aspects became all too apparent. First of all, the construction of the film is built on intercutting throughout, that being between the scenes with the disembodied hand and those telling the love story yet these interchanges feel entirely arbitrary. Even if one ascribes to the hand the ability to be so much a part of Naoufel that it shares his memories, the past scenes simply turn up one by one to continue the narrative and not because something prompts them. Secondly, ingenious and intriguing as the adventures of the hand are - ranging as they do from the dangerous (an incident on the Métro) to the touching (contact with a baby) - they are decidedly episodic without building any cumulative weight.

 

The film is sufficiently beguiling and unusual for these weaknesses to be ones that can be overlooked. Rather more harmful is the sense that the last quarter of an hour or so starts to feel pretentious. Earlier a discussion about destiny and ways in which one can escape it can be given whatever significance the viewer chooses. But this final section by incorporating details about the deaths of Naoufel's parents unavoidably suggests that a third tier is being added to the story in a misguided bid at profundity. Even then, the film lacks any real sense of closure. I admired much in I Lost My Body including the animation technique which gives us faces with real character, yet ultimately I found myself much less involved than was the case with, say, the 2016 animation My Life as a Courgette. That may make my rating a shade generous, but at its best this film is truly remarkable.

 

Original title: J'ai perdu mon corps.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

French voices  Hakim Faris, Victoire D uBois, Patrick d’Asssumçao, Hichem Mesbah, Myriam Loucif, Bellamine Abdelmulek, Nicole Favart.

 

English voices  Dev Patel, Alia Shawkat, George Wendt.

 

Dir Jérémy Clapin, Pro Marc du Pontavice, Screenplay Jérémy Clapin and Guillaume Laurant, from the novel Happy Hand by Guillaume Laurant, Art Dir Fursy Teyssier and Jeoffrey Magellan, Ed Benjamin Massoubre, Music Dan Levy, Animation David Nasser and Mathieu Chaptel.

 

Xilam Animation/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Cinéma/Sofitvciné 6/Indéfilms 7-Netflix.
81 mins. France. 2019. Rel: 22 November 2019. Cert. 12A.