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By Daniel Wible | July 7, 2004

Somebody out there will totally get the impossibly strange French film “Mécanix.” That same somebody will no doubt spend hours and hours analyzing, in painstaking detail, every nightmarish tableau dreamed up by writer/director Rémy Mathieu Larochelle. Hallucinogens will be taken and much absinthe will be consumed. But eventually, this somebody will proudly proclaim to his chat room buddies, “Oh yes, it all makes perfect sense!” I am not this somebody. And believe me, it’s not for lack of open-mindedness towards such dark and impenetrable subject matter. I’d take another dive into Bergman’s infamously opaque “Persona” or Lynch’s classic mind-raper “Eraserhead” or even Matthew Barney’s bizarro “Cremaster Cycle” any day over trying to decipher this diabolical tangle. It’s just not worth the effort. Despite the poster art’s promise of “the nightmare that will make you shiver at night,” “Mécanix” is neither philosophically provocative or terrifying or even all that interesting visually.
Needless to say, describing the plot of this part live-action part-stop-motion film is a lot simpler if the “who’s” and the “why’s” and the “how’s” are replaced by the “what the f@#k’s” and the “who the hell’s” and even the “what did I do to deserve this’s”. As I am at a loss here, even after diligently sitting through all 70 minutes, I must defer to the (gulp) packaging for some semblance of a storyline, as shameful as that may be. One thing clear at least is that this dark fantasy takes place in the “land of dreams”, in which hellish beasties rule over humans and various other “mechanical organisms”, whatever those are. These ghastly creatures, actually substandard stop-motion models, have a nasty habit of turning their human slaves into deformed mutants, all in the hope of uncovering, what else, but the embryo of the universe. Which embryo of the universe you might ask, well you know, it’s that embryo of the universe, the “ultimate fruit”, the “origin of everything”, duh. It seems that the last free man in the land of dreams (I only know he’s the last free man from the box) discovers the embryo in some weird bird thingee out in the snow and hides it, where else, but in his stomach. In no time, the man is in the clutches of the horrible creatures, who rip the embryo from him and turn him into some kind of meca-human type thing in the process – nice guys. But before the creatures can claim the sacred seed for themselves, “nature erupts from the darkness” in the form of an attractive co-ed who claims, “I am the embryo, I want to smell flowers!” The rest is just your standard fare half-boy half-Mr. Coffee meets semi-clad embryonic goddess, falls in love, and coalesces with her, forming yet another thing completely, I think.

As a filmic experience, “Mécanix “ is way more tolerable than say, E. Elias Merhige’s torturous “Begotten”, while being much less engaging than say, the classics of German expressionism. For a film like this to work, the imagery must be suitably bold and menacing and yet eerily beautiful. Clearly Larochelle wants his audience to be simultaneously freaked out and spellbound by his dark invocations. There are indeed moments in the film when he approaches this, the antics of a funky little monkey demon and a no-man’s land where giant scorpions sprout from giant phalluses being two examples. But after 70 mostly dialogue-free minutes of repetitive, murky shots of real actors and models doing, well, whatever the hell it is that they’re doing, I was in desperate need of some air. At best, the mix of live-action and stop-motion animation is awkward and an obvious obstacle for the filmmakers. And sometimes, the animation is just plain bad. For what it’s worth, I give Larochelle and company some props for their ambition and uncompromising vision. As for me, I’ll be busy trying to “accept the inexistence of my reality,” as soon as I figure out how.

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