TIFF 2012 Review: The Suicide Shop (2012)
In The Suicide Shop, in a sprawling metropolis not entirely unlike Paris, the Tuvache family are the proprietors of a quaint little boutique which specializes in the procurement of upscale and designer methods of self-annihilation. Colourful poisons in perfume bottles, noose-and-stool combo packages, Japanese katana swords perfect for hari kari – they have it all at Le Magasin des suicides. The tricky part is the lack of repeat customers. But the family’s youngest, Alan Tuvache, is a great disappointment to his parents. He is carefree, lighthearted and his infectious happiness is beginning to spread to the customers – and affect profits! There is one in every family: The Munsters had Marilyn and the Tuvaches have little Alan. Worse yet, the family patriarch Mishima (a gaunt mustachioed figure not entirely unlike Gomez Addams) begins to succumb to the overwhelming despair that has kept his shop in business for decades.
Based on a 2007 novel by Jean Teulé, director Patrice Leconte has lovingly transformed The Suicide Shop into a fully-animated musical feature offering up songs like “Vive la suicides.” When I saw this film as a special presentation at 2012’s Toronto International Film Festival, Leconte said that he wanted to make a film with was simultaneously very dark and very joyous and, judging from the reaction of the audience, I would say he has succeeded. A cartoon with subject matter as noir as this will inevitably draw comparisons to the work of American director Tim Burton – something Leconte seemed to welcome during the Q&A session that following the screening at TIFF. But, in my opinion, not even the macabre Mr. Burton has been so bold as to attempt to leverage laughs out of a homeless man suffocating himself with a plastic bag. One of many moments which make the The Suicide Shop much darker than Coraline, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie combined.
In March, Leconte’s morose tour-de-force became available in North America but unfortunately without a major distributor to rally animation fans, the film remains virtually unknown to English-speaking audiences. In Canada, we were able to award Sylvain Chomet’s French animated feature The Triplets of Belleville as the best film of the year in 2005 because it was a France-Belgium-Quebec co-production and we enjoy a proud national tradition for creating and promoting strange and unsettling cartoons – so there is a favorable Canadian market for exactly this kind of movie. If you enjoyed French-made feature-length cartoons like The Triplets of Belleville or Chomet’s subsequent The Illusionist, then you should stand up, turn away from your screen, rush out to your local independently-run video store and demand that they order a copy of Leconte’s The Suicide Shop! Or, you know, don’t – I don’t really care anymore. Now where did I put that arsenic?
The Suicide Shop is now for sale on DVD through retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, and it is also available for digital purchase or rental through the iTunes store and YouTube.
A Gallery of Images from The Suicide Shop