French animation feature film “I Lost My Body”, which won the Nespresso Grand Prize when it was shown in the International Critics’ Week section at the Cannes Film Festival early in this year (It is incidentally the first animation film to do so in the section’s history, by the way), is a curious piece of work with some offbeat touches to be admired. Although it often trudges at times due to its rather unbalanced narrative structure, the film still engages us thanks to a number of striking moments which shine with style, humor, and imagination, and you will not forget it easily after watching it.
After the opening shot suggesting that something bloody and terrible happened, we are introduced to one dismembered hand which is initially stored in a refrigerator of some laboratory along with other body parts including an eyeball. Once it recognizes its captive status in a plastic bag, this hand attempts to escape for itself, and its attempt leads to a series of morbidly humorous moments including the one involved with that poor eyeball.
After successfully escaping from the laboratory, the hand goes through several ups and downs of its uncertain journey to a certain destination. At one point, it has a very unpleasant encounter with a pigeon inhabiting on the roof of a building, and then there later comes a perilous scene where it finds itself threatened by a group of mice residing in a subway station, which certainly become quite aggressive once they recognize that the hand can be their latest meal. When the hand later happens to be caught by a pet dog belonging to some disabled guy, we get a nice moment of peace and comfort, but, unfortunately, that does not last long.
Meanwhile, the movie also focuses on a young man named Naofel (voiced by Hakim Faris), and a number of brief flashback scenes early in the film give us a glimpse into his childhood period. Growing up under his caring parents, he aspired to be a musician or an astronaut someday, but, alas, his parents died early due to an unfortunate car accident, and his subsequent years have been not very happy to say the least. While he has been allowed to live in his uncle’s residence, his uncle does not care much about him, and neither does his horny cousin, who incidentally has shared the same bedroom with him for years.
Naofel has worked as a pizza delivery guy, but he is not so good at his job, and then he happens to have a very bad day. When he is hurriedly trying to deliver pizzas as usual, his motorcycle is broken due to an unexpected accident, and, shortly after arriving at a high-rise building and trying to contact with a young woman who orders a pizza, he belatedly finds that the pizza is considerably ruined due to that accident.
Anyway, while stuck inside the building due to rain, Naofel comes to have a conversation with that young woman via the intercommunication system in the building for a long time, and, though he does not see her and also does know her much, he finds himself gradually attracted to her, so he becomes determined to search for her as much as he can. After finding out who she really is and where she works, he attempts to approach to her, but then he only gets himself employed by her carpenter uncle, and, fortunately, it looks like he finally finds a job in which he is really interested.
Meanwhile, Naofel continues to try to approach closer to that young woman, named Gabrielle (voiced by Victoire Du Bois), without telling her anything about his motive, and that is where the story becomes less engaging to us. While he is sincere in his romantic pursuit of Gabrielle, it also can be said that Naofel is your average stalking creep, and we are not so surprised when Gabrielle later becomes quite upset and disturbed after coming to learn about what Naofel has been holding behind his back.
Nevertheless, the film still holds our attention thanks to those imaginative moments involved with the hand, which turns out to be as resourceful as Thing in “The Addams Family” (1991). It is quite determined to go to its destination by any means necessary, and we accordingly get a tense and frightening moment when it boldly attempts to cross over a busy highway in a rather creative way.
Although it begins to lose its narrative momentum around the time when the hand finally arrives at its destination, the screenplay by director Jérémy Clapin and his co-writer Guillaume Laurant, which is based on Laurant’s novel “Happy Hand”, still maintains its humor and sensitivity at least, and then everything in the story eventually culminates to its calm but poignant finale. Mainly driven by sounds and images, the finale effectively presents a climax as emotional as demanded, and I also appreciate a little but precious sign of hope and resilience shown at the last minute of the film.
In conclusion, “I Lost My Body” is not entirely without weak aspects, but it is definitely recommendable to you if you enjoyed “Amelie” (2001) and other whimsical movies of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who has frequently collaborated with Laurant. In short, this is one of more distinctive animation films of this year, and you will not be disappointed if you are looking for something different from those usual Hollywood digital animation films out there.