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  Microbe & Gasoline Let's Go Away For A While
Year: 2015
Director: Michel Gondry
Stars: Ange Dargent, Théophile Baquet, Diane Besnier, Audrey Tautou, Vincent Lamoureux, Agathe Peigney, Douglas Brosset, Charles Raymond, Ferdinand Roux-Balme, Marc Delarue, Ely Penh, Laurent Poitrenaux, Jana Bittnerova, Zimksy, Fabio Zenoni
Genre: Comedy, Drama, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Daniel (Ange Dargent) feels picked on at school, for the very good reason that he is, mostly because he has not matured as quickly as the other boys and they call him Microbe thanks to his small frame and wet behind the ears appearance. He lives with his parents and his brother, who is trying to make something of his punk band that Daniel thinks is terrible, but he is not finding much support from his family, especially his mother (Audrey Tautou) who is labouring under a depression and cannot relate very well to her youngest son. However, one day at class there’s a new boy, Theo (Théophile Baquet), who Daniel takes an immediate liking to; the feeling is mutual, and they are soon fast friends…

Theo gets his own nickname, Gasoline, which is down to his aptitude with engines in his father’s garage that leaves him smelling of the fuel and oil he works with, and as he and Daniel are two outsiders, they find common ground, the more worldly Theo acting as the big brother the young boy should have had if his actual big brother wasn’t so mean to him. This was director Michel Gondry branching out into the very well-worn territory of the coming of age movie, and you might have expected from his pedigree that he would quirk it up to fresh heights of eccentricity, yet in effect aside from the transport the teens build it was more interested in the smaller matters of character and interaction.

So there were not too much of the dream sequences or surrealism invading the lives of the two protagonists, as this was concerned with the finer points of friendship and how making a connection with someone at that age can make for a particularly intense relationship, unaffected by the cynicism and guarded qualities that may come later thanks to the boys remembering how important it is to have a best friend as it was not so long ago that they were just little kids. This transitional period has spawned a whole subgenre of comedies and dramas, and Gondry, who penned the script as well, was careful to add moments of humour that could only have hailed from a perspective outside the pair’s friendship.

And yet, while we were in the privileged position of understanding what they were doing right to keep their amicability very much alive, we could also see where they were going wrong. It was very romantic in a classic children’s literature sort of way for Daniel and Theo to set off on their own on the open road in a vehicle they had manufactured themselves, but Gondry’s worry about just what would happen to their unsupervised adventure was palpable, and he threw obstacles in their path that they tended to accept in a fashion that indicated they didn’t know any better, and if they did they would be seeking more security than they could find with one another’s inexperience. Nevertheless, the notion of getting away from it all is a potent one and resonated throughout the story.

That vehicle was something Theo created out of spare parts, a little car using a scooter engine since being minors they were not allowed to drive a proper, grown-up one, though they quickly discover that’s not a guarantee, and they are not allowed to drive it anyway. Their solution? Disguise it as a little house, effectively making it a camper van that resembles a garden shed with pretensions (there’s even a window box), so if any police or other authority figures start sniffing around, they will be put off by thinking it’s a building. It’s a childishly simple idea, and all too apt, so fairly cheering when it succeeds, although eventually it succeeds all too well when it’s mistaken for a Romany caravan. Meanwhile, Daniel pines for Laura (Diane Besnier), the classmate who thinks he’s too short for her yet sadly realises she actually does like him just at the point when it may be too late, as Gondry contrived a melancholy ending for his tale that made it stay in the mind after the credits were over. Music unmistakably by Jean-Claude Vannier.

Aka: Microbe et Gasoil
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Michel Gondry  (1964 - )

French musician-turned-film-maker who made his name directing innovative videos for the likes of Bjork, Massive Attack and The White Stripes, as well as a variety of TV commercials. His first feature film was 2001's surreal comedy Human Nature, written by Charlie Kaufman. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, co-written with Kaufman and starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, was his next project, a success that was not matched by The Science of Sleep which Gondry wrote himself. Be Kind Rewind was a charming comedy that only won cult acclaim, but superhero spoof The Green Hornet was a surprise hit in light of the grumpy reaction it received. Adaptation of cult novel Mood Indigo proved more difficult to find its audience, though coming of age yarn Microbe & Gasoline was more conventional.

 
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