Last week The 18th European Union Film Festival took place in Malaysia though I guess mostly only expatriate and media types noticed. My wife and I heard about it on the radio and so I looked it up. Most of the films scheduled looked uninteresting to me as they are either too new or too obscure to have been reviewed much. We had already watched Fire at Sea. This is only thing that I found that has very high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes so I picked this to watch, if only as a show of support for such events.
Icare, a young boy who prefers to be known as Courgette, lives alone with his mother until she is accidentally killed in an accident. A friendly policeman, Raymond, arranges for him to be sent to an orphanage filled with other children from unfortunate backgrounds. He has a hard time at first, especially being picked on by the resident bully Simon, but they eventually become friends of a sort after Courgette stands up for himself. In between his new friends and occasional visits by Raymond, Courgette settles down to a comfortable rhyme in his new life. Things get more interesting when a new girl, Camille, arrives at the orphanage and Courgette develops a crush on her. When Camille’s aunt attempts to gain custody of her in spite of her wishes, the other children get together to help her.
This is a Swiss-French animated film made using stop-motion techniques. While many Hollywood films made this way look almost indistinguishable from CGI these days this one looks deliberately anachronistic. Their model for a car for example looks almost like a matchstick box and I found it rather amusing to notice the way they use relatively simple shapes to create all manner of objects. I also enjoyed the use of French slang by the kids. It’s juvenile I suppose but the whole cinema chuckled when the kids trotted the dick jokes and even I can’t resist snickering when they say ‘zizi’. I think my wife was pleased at discovering another example of how the French seemingly like to use vegetable names as a term of affection.
Unfortunately My Life as a Zucchini has little else going for it as it is very much a children’s cartoon. While the film starts on a tragic note, all of the grief is front-loaded and it’s all sunshine and rainbows for the kids at the orphanage. It actually feels kind of disconcerting how every person of authority who works for the state is invariably kindly and has the best interests of the children at heart, unlike every other film we know about orphanages. Maybe Switzerland really is such an awesome country that all of their state-run institutions are perfect but I rather doubt it considering that the orphanage depicted here only has something like a half dozen children. It’s a decent enough film for kids but there’s not much here for an adult audience.