The Suicide Shop doesn't shy away from torture

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      Featuring the voices of Bernard Alane and Isabelle Spade. In French with English subtitles. Unrated. Opens Friday, March 1, at the Vancity Theatre

      As illustrated by The Suicide Shop, there are many ways to go: guns, poison, drowning, the rope (hemp, not nylon, to be eco-friendly)—and, now, in a growing category, heavily art-directed French musicals. Granted, this one is only 79 minutes, but when you’re miserable, time stands still.

      Paris-based director Patrice Leconte, here tackling his first animated effort, is no stranger to elegant misanthropy—remember such gleefully transgressive items as Ridicule, Monsieur Hire, and The Hairdresser’s Husband? Basing his own script on a popular novel by Jean Teulé, he utilizes a dark, pleasantly flat, children’s-book style of cartooning to convey the uniquely gloomy world of the Tuvaches, a family dedicated to helping the deservingly despondent shuffle off their mortal coils.

      Their little shop at the end of the sooty urban cul-de-sac is home to corpulent Lucrèce and the Gomez-like Mishima (Isabelle Spade and Bernard Alane, respectively), as well as their appropriately morose children, Vincent (Laurent Gendron) and Matilyn (Isabelle Giami). The daughter has a secret yen for nude belly-dancing, but that may be the only life-affirming aspect to this death-dispensing clan until the new baby comes along. The problem with happy Alan is that there’s nothing wrong with him. And as he gets older (and is voiced by Kacey Mottet Klein), he keeps thinking of ways to subvert his parents’ exploitation of human suffering.

      That’s cool, but I didn’t see him shy away from torture, at least when it came to breaking out in bad song (courtesy of composer Etienne Perruchon) along with the other Tuvaches. Sure, I can dig the whole Frankenweenie bit, and goth goes well with certain cartoon visions of childhood, but this depression-minded flick’s notion of fun with the nearly dead was pretty much lost on me.

      Guess I was just in a good mood when I saw it.

      Watch the trailer for The Suicide Shop.