Is making morbid jokes about suicide good or bad? Can it help us to relativize (if only for a while) our own gloomy, depressed outlook? Is it a healthy relief to laugh about desperation? Or is it just cruel, making things worse by poking fun at something we ought to take seriously?
I guess there’s something to say for each of these viewpoints. Perhaps this will depend completely from your own mood.
This weekend, the Toronto International Film Festival is featuring the just-released French animated musical The Suicide Shop – and I expect it will not be to every one’s taste.
From the blurb promoting this film:
“Celebrated filmmaker Patrice Leconte (Monsieur Hire, Girl on the Bridge, Man on the Train) shifts gears for this gleefully grim, Burtonesque animated musical. In a near-apocalyptic city ravaged by severe climate change and a perpetually morose population, the Tuvache family preside over the Suicide Shop, whose stock of rusty razor blades, well-knotted nooses, ritual swords and poisonous pests makes it your one-stop shop for doing away with yourself.”
“When the Tuvaches’ youngest son Alain comes into the world, however, the family is in for a nasty surprise: no matter how much his morbid parents and sad-sack siblings try to get him to look on the dark side, he remains incurably cheerful and optimistic — and thus a disgrace to the family name. What is the family to do with a kid who has no desire for death? How will their business — er — survive?”
“Adapted from Jean Teulé’s 2007 novel and replete with ghastly gags, droll animation and pithy lyrics set to merrily malignant melodies, The Suicide Shop garlands its wildly disturbing premise with gossamer black humour.”
Speaking for myself, I certainly intend to see it (but not in Toronto). As long as I haven’t seen the entire movie myself, I won’t judge. Maybe it’s funny, maybe it’s not so funny if you happen to be very depressed yourself: I just don’t know yet.
Here is a review of this movie by someone who already did see it, UK viewer Alex Tomlin at the IMDb movie site. On a 0 to 10 scale, he gave it 7 points:
“Not to be confused with family viewing, The Suicide Shop is filled with politically incorrect humour throughout that goes against the expected, including death, depression and nudity. That said, it is done well with comedy and has a wonderful French soundtrack.”
“Those less accustomed to the wider range of animation in Europe may be left a bit baffled (or even insulted) by the narrative and design. There are many times that the references to suicide could be deemed offensive for those of a more sensitive nature. The animation is stylised and might not sit well with some. Equally there is something lacking in the ending that does not fit the tone instilled throughout.”
“The Suicide Shop is however unashamedly bold in its genre – it is funny, heartwarming and wonderfully grim at times. A great film to watch for something different and aesthetically entertaining. I do not know if there is an English dub, but I strongly recommend the French version.”
To sample a bit of the movie’s atmosphere, here is the official trailer:
Well, at least we’ve got a kind of milestone here: this was the first time ever I embedded a video in one of my StayOnTop posts! Let me tell you, I’m not going to make this a habit. You know, I’m really old-school: in most cases, I myself find online videos more a distraction than an asset.
Should you also want to take a look at the book that inspired this movie, here is a link to the Amazon page for The Suicide Shop.
• tip: When I was a child, one of those sage sayings adults liked to recite was: “Laughing is the best medicine”. Maybe there’s some truth in this – but only when you’re still capable of laughing.
Author: Henk van Setten