Suicide Shop, The (2012): Patrice Leconte’s Animated Musical

French (le magasin des suicides)

Cannes Film Fest 2012–I have been a loyal follower of the talented French director Patrice Leconte ever since I saw the creepy and bizarrely engaging, “Monsieur Hire,” starring Michel Blanc and Sandrine Bonnaire, in 1989, and the euphoric follow-up, “The Hairdresser’s Husband,” in 1992.

Diverse in interests and skills, Leconte has made excellent, good and mediocre films, but he is a cerebral director who’s simply incapable of making silly or unintelligent features.

In his latest, ambitious feature, The Suicide Shop, which world-premiered at the2012  Cannes Film Fest (Out of Competition), Leconte adapts Jean Teulé’s darkly comic 2007 novel into a animated musical about a young child with an upbeat disposition born into a family that thrives on the misery of others.

It’s a testament to Leconte’s idiosyncratic sensibility that he handles difficult, perhaps even impossible material in a charming, darkly humorous way, helped by a vigorous animation schemes.

The tale is set in a unique locale, a suicide shop. The Tuvache family has owned a small shop catering to the suicidal impulses and needs of its depressed clientele for generations, or since 1854, to be exact.

Early on, with terrifically illuminating tracking shots, we get a sense of this morbid boutique, which reveal a dazzling variety of tools and instruments, meant to assist all those world-weary shoppers who seriously consider to their endless suffering.

When the pessimistic proprietor Mishima and his depressive wife give birth to a baby boy named Alan, they hope—based on tradition–that he would be just as miserable as his somber siblings. Some parents, but you have to see the feature, which on its own terms makes perfect sense.

But, alas, children are seldom what their parents expect or want them to be. Indeed, Alan isn’t like the others—he’s bright-eyed, optimistic, and energetic, an amazing ray of sunshine in a world defined by perpetual grey skies.

Nothing seems to depress—or upset—Alan–not even the carcinogenic cigarettes bestowed to him by his severe father can to snap the spontaneously cheerful child out of his optimistic worldview and his absurdist determination to make the customers smile.

What’s a family to do? Realizing that the very future of their enduring family business may be threatened by the beaming boy, the Tuvache resort to desperate measures in their efforts to keep the misery alive.

Though only 80-minute-long, the animated feature runs out of ideas after the first two reels, but this is a minor complaint considering the originality of the concept and the skillful execution in the technical and other departments.

At the end of the press screening, a colleague remarked that this is the kind of movie that Todd Solondz (“Welcome to the Doll House,” “Happiness”) and his loyal fan base would enjoy. But I hope that larger audiences would have a chance to see a movie that cannot be compared to any other work in Cannes, this or any other edition.


Running time: 80 Minutes.
Directed by Patrice Leconte
Written by Patrice Leconte and Jean Teule
Music: Etienne Perruchon
Sound: Thomas gauder
Editing: Rodolphe Ploquin