Fantastical hits new heights


Comedy/95 minutes/Opens today

Rating: 3/5

The story: The wealthy but love-starved Colin (Romain Duris) is the inventor of the pianocktail (a cocktail-making robot that uses music as input).

Through close friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh), he is introduced to the alluring Chloe (Audrey Tautou). They fall in love, but Chloe falls ill.

Colin's funds run dry as he seeks a cure for his beloved, while Chick's obsession with the philosopher Jean-Sol Partre causes a rift with girlfriend Alise (Aissa Maiga).

THE critical and commercial disaster that was The Green Hornet (2011) might have derailed Michel Gondry's burgeoning career in Hollywood, but it has not stopped the French writer-director completely.

In France, producers continue to pick up his telephone calls.

This is his second feature since his superhero adventure flopped (his first, the 2012 teen drama The We And The I, was not released in Singapore) and both are in his native language.

Based on the oft-filmed 1947 surrealist novel L'ecume Des Jours by Boris Vian, director Gondry's penchant for the fantastical flies to new heights here.

Almost every frame introduces a practical effect of some kind - puppetry, stop-motion, forced perspective, props - to create a world that makes the Muppet universe look like the model of scientific accuracy.

Here, a jazz dance causes legs to stretch and wobble like rubber, inanimate objects anthropomorphise and scurry about the kitchen, sci-fi guns grow from mounds of soil warmed by the heat of human beings paid to lie atop them.

Above it all floats a cast of characters who treat the insanity with a coolly blase attitude. This is their world, they live in it, so why should they treat it with anything but a shrug?

As an exercise in pure kinetic cinema, Gondry's creation is something to behold. But this is the land behind the looking glass without an Alice to ground the story; it is all surface and nothing matters.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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