A little cuckoo, but it works

92 minutes / Opens tomorrow / 3½ stars

The story: On a day so cold that birds fall out of the sky, Jack (Mathias Malzieu) is born with a frozen heart. He is saved by a midwife-cum-witch who replaces it with a cuckoo clock. Later, he travels across Europe to seek the girl of his dreams, Miss Acacia (Olivia Ruiz).

It is a mission overshadowed by tragedy as Jack has been warned never to fall in love - doing so would mess with his cogs and gears and kill him. Based on the 2007 illustrated novel by Malzieu, lead singer of French rock band Dionysos.

Once in a while, Singapore moviegoers get to watch something from Europe that reminds them there is more to animation than just Pixar's fully realised computer-generated world, Studio Ghibli's hand-drawn loveliness and the flatter look found on television series.

The Triplets Of Belleville (2003), for example, had a distinctive style and story about a kidnapped Tour de France cyclist.

So too does Jack And The CuckooClock Heart, a unique and offbeat- looking work that takes an unusual premise and just runs with it.

The cuckoo clock behaves like a mechanical device as well as an organ. Instead of Jack's heart pumping wildly when he gets scared or excited, the cuckoo might shoot out instead.

Peopled with other unusual characters, such as a man with a xylophone on his back and an excitable Georges Melies (based on the real-life pioneering filmmaker who straddled the 19th and 20th centuries), this is a film that is not too concerned with linear logic.

And this frees directors Malzieu and Stephane Berla to let their imaginations roam when it comes to depicting Jack's world. The village he lives in is not some rectilinear grid. Instead, there is hardly a straight line to be found. Water flows upwards in a fountain and an accordion train moves by compressing and extending itself.

Add characters that look like alabasterskinned dolls who break into song to express their emotions and it all sounds a little, well, cuckoo.

But it works, with everything coming together to make an intriguing package.


This article was first published on Nov 5, 2014.
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