The Suicide Shop, an animated film from the director of My Best Friend, caused a stir when local censors in Italy accused Patrice Leconte of promoting suicide. The director told RT why his film is unlikely to be released in America.
“It’s too politically incorrect. A father who makes his son smoke a cigarette; a boy who orchestrates his sister’s strip-tease? No, this film isn’t for Americans. For the moment, no company has acquired the rights to screen it in America, and I don’t think they will. Shame,” Leconte told RT.
The Suicide Shop is set in a “city where life has become so sad that people have no taste for living”. Suicides become common practice, with people falling from skyscrapers like dead pigeons.
Public suicide is forbidden, but residents turn for help from the Tuvache family who run their Suicide Shop and sell everything to take your life the way you want to; from ropes and poison, to knives and guns.
The entire family works in the store. Gloomy Father Mishima shows off the evil goods, his wife Lucrezia is behind the register, and children Marilyn and Vincent to ‘pep up’ customers to end their lives.
A ‘ray of hope’ comes when an unusual baby is born into the family. Alan’s optimism is infectious, but he freaks out all the family members, even his angry father. While the kid is supposed to encourage customers to buy rope and soap, he smiles at them and says life is beautiful.
“The film was recently released in Italy so I went there to take part in the publicity campaign. On the eve of the release we learned that Italy has censored it so only those aged 18 and above were allowed to watch it. The pretext was that The Suicide Shop film allegedly instigated suicide, promoting people to commit suicides. While in reality, this film was just the opposite. Fortunately, the ban was lifted and the film has been released without any age restrictions. But I was very disappointed that things were misinterpreted to such a degree. The film focuses on dark and sad things only to say, C’mon, look at children and their energy; adults are too gloomy. This pep-up film was meant to prevent people from jumping out the window. I’m in no way pushing anybody to commit suicide. Life is not merry per se. I’m not an idiot, I’m a realist. I look at people around me and know perfectly well what real life is like. But even when life isn’t all roses, it’s still a little more beautiful than a suicide. If you’ve come to the point where you’ve decided to take your life means you have reached an extreme point of despair. This freaks me out. All of us have known people who ended their lives by committing suicide. It’s horrible, because we never imagined they would do it. Suicide is something very painful, and I had no intention to mock at it in my film. The only thing I wanted to say was: We often think it takes courage to take one’s life, but I think it’s coward. It’s only to escape things, to refuse to confront the circumstances. In any case, this film is by no way an excuse for suicide,” Leconte explained.
The 63-year-old French director said working on The Suicide Shop, spiced up with musical numbers, was a dream come true.
“Making an animation gave me complete freedom, in terms of inspiration to write the script and in terms of the mise en scene. I adore making ‘normal’, real films, I adore shooting with the actors, and it’s my passion. Of course, in this film I missed it – in animation you don’t shoot. However, there was an element of serene freedom instead. Nothing bad could happen to you, you had total control of everything all the time, and this feeling appealed to me a great deal. I feared it could be frustrating to return to normal films afterwards. But since the Suicide Shop I’ve made a feature film and was happy again. So, The Suicide Shop wasn’t a bad experience.”
Lecontesaid the idea of turning The Suicide Shop into an animated film wasn’t his idea.
“The project was born very quickly. I read the book by Jean Teulé and thought it couldn’t be adapted for screen because it’s too dark. But when a young producer came up to me saying he acquired the rights and suggested making an animation, I said, great! I realized that the darkness and pessimism which were too realistic, and scared me if we shot a normal film, could be brightened up in an animation film, to express very dark things with lightness,” the director told RT.
The creator of such dramas as Girl on the Bridge and Man on the Train, both box office hits in America, says he has long been tempted by the bright lights of Hollywood.
“When my films are well received in America, I regularly receive proposals to work there. I’ve always been tempted. But here, in France, I take the advantage of the freedom of inspiration and the trust of the producers, which is an amazing thing. If I have to make a film for a US major film studio, will it be the same? I’m not sure. At one point I thought I’d agree to make a film there so that when I come back I’d be bilingual at least. But you don’t make a film to practice your language skills, it’s silly. So I’ve always replied, no thanks,” Leconte explained.
Valeria Paikova, RT
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