Microbe et Gasoil: A fountain of youth for Michel Gondry
by Fabien Lemercier
- This outstanding film from the whimsical French director on the friendship and misfortunes of two young teenagers is refreshing, funny and touching
What is normal? At a time when the younger generations are only too happy to conform and cuttingly relegate the more rebellious of their peers to the despised category of “outsiders”, highly original French filmmaker Michel Gondry’s focuses on this issue superbly in his new piece Microbe et Gasoil [+see also:
film profile], reminding us with very forthcoming good humour that differences between children on the cusp of adolescence are more a sign of intelligence that anything else.
Gleefully diving into the autobiographical style and bringing his youth spent in Versaille to the surface, which he modernises with ease, the director of the legendary Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2005) brings fans of his off the wall, consistently poetic works a very simple film which hits its mark dead on, a rejuvenating experience that mixes touching realism and a refreshing dose of imagination in a pretty near perfect balance of his tendency for over the top tangents with his interest in portraying the fragile side of human beings and their doubts when faced with the social demands of living. Once again using the theme of escape, Gondry succeeds in channeling his vivid imagination without actually straying from the beaten path when these young school-age heros, Daniel (Ange Dargent) and Théo (Théophile Baquet), the Microbe and Gasoil of the film’s title, throw themselves into the eccentric construction of a shack on wheels and set off in search of adventure, taking to the roads of France in a series of events and comical encounters that are milestones in a beautiful and dazzling friendship and mark the beginning of the pair’s adolescence.
Microbe is very small for his age (13 – 14 years old) and his long hair often means he is mistaken for a girl. His school years unfold like clockwork, producing accomplished drawings on his own, dreaming (without knowing how to make it a reality) of turning his platonic friendship with Laura (Diane Besnier) into something more, playing football with his younger brother with whom he shares a room, and his everyday life as a member of a middle-class boho family, with a mother (Audrey Tautou) wracked with depression and obsessed with reincarnation, and a brother who’s a hard rock enthusiast. But everything changes with the arrival of new classmate Gasoil, the audacious, boastful, handy and well-educated son of a rather disagreeable antique/scrap metal dealer. The two young "outsiders" become friends and, with the school holidays fast approaching, decide to build an incredible shack on wheels. Duping their parents, they then take to the roads in it, at snail’s pace, resulting in hilarious episodes fuelled by a great soft spot on Michel Gondry’s part for these two “outsiders” of a very tender, inventive, open and tentative age at which “the sum of its parts can be greater than the whole".
(Translated from French)