The Cambridge Geek

The Suicide Shop

The Suicide Shop, or "Le Magasin des suicides" is a small shop in France, which helps people to take care of their little problem. That problem being a life that's gone on a smidgen too long in a drab grey world.

Mishima and Lucrèce Tuvache, the couple who run the shop, take great pride in their work, offering guns, poisons, ropes (and stool!), gas, grenades, snakes, spiders, katanas, and the classic razor blade. And they do it all with singing.

I hadn't been expecting this to be a musical.

They manage to be both cheerful in their work, but grim in general (both they and their children, Marilyn and Vincent, tend to constantly wish for death), which means that the songs are an entertaining mix of jolly upbeat "we'll kill you with this!" and dire-like "why do I go on". (But in French.)

Which is why it's a shame when they have their third child, Alan, and discover that he is unrelentingly gleeful, and therefore not necessarily the best person to be helping people shuffle off this mortal coil. His desire not to kill people, in opposition to his family's economic need to bump people off, drives the main conflict of the film.

The animation is pleasing, with a style reminiscent (to me) of the Gloom card game, with the occasional Addams family nuance thrown in. It leaps into acid-trip style surrealism sequences a couple of times, which are some of the most interesting components of the film. Very cool moments. The songs also tend to get some tweaks to the styling, and though they're undoubtedly better if you are a French speaker (to my shame, I'm not), they're still highly enjoyable.

So with good music, good animation and a nice style, why don't I actually enjoy it that much? The annoying kid. The first ten fifteen minutes of the film have a theme of the misery of life and the fun ways it's possible to bump people off. I enjoy this sort of nastiness. But Alan is a driving force for change, and is the closest thing the film has to a heroic figure, beating back his villainous father's desire to kill people. But my god is he a git.

It's entirely possible that this is simply my dislike of kids in general, but I found Alan to have absolutely no redeeming features as a protagonist. The whole smoking debacle doesn't seem to have a reason, other than "cool people smoke?" and the strange incesty vibe is just weird. I know it's meant to be a happy ending, but it was mostly underwhelming.

It's a massive shame really, because there are so many bits of it that stand alone as cool scenes. I enjoyed the angry psychiatrist, the rat chorus, Mishima's daydream (god I wish that had been incorporated into the plot), but the work in total left me cold, in that by the 2/3rds mark, as Alan's plan started coming to fruition, I was becoming bored.

Some good ideas, but ruined by a hero I couldn't get along with. Still gets an average rating due to all the other components. If you want an example of a miserable tale turned cheerful through the power of a child, try The Addams Family Musical, which is superior.

Score 3

Tagged: Film Animated comedy Workplace/Employment Fiction DVD