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Living World, The
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by Chris Parry

"Would have been a great short film. Instead, it's a short great film"
4 stars

The Living World is one of those creatures that you enjoy and admire, but come away from wishing there'd been a little more to it. the film is set in the French countryside where a few modern French folk seem to be enjoying a stroll in the park, only they have a very odd way of talking to each other. They seem to be reciting lines from a fairytale, in which one, The Lion Knight, says he is engaged in a quest to defeat an ogre and win back his true love who is held by the beast. This is odd, since the guy is wearing blue jeans, a white cotton dress shirt, sneakers and a plastic sword. Oh, and he has a 'lion' with him too, though the creature is, in actual fact, a labrador. So what is all this weirdness? It's a fairytale told in the same format as a children's storybook, though without any sets, costumes or budget. And it's really quite cool, at least for the first half hour.

So the Lion Knight (Alexis Loret) wants to find the Ogre, so he can kill him and free his true love. On the way he meets Nicolas (Adrien Michaux), a young man looking for adventure. The two become fast friends, and soon find themselves entwined in the same quest, though they seek different loves through the same result. And trust me, the 'Lion' is there for more than comedic effect.

Writer/director Eugene Green is a freak, but a freak that I'm sure I would enjoy meeting. In The Living World, he has created a piece of film that is entirely tough to fit into a genre. It's a comedy, there's little doubt about that as the first ten minutes wins over the audience completely with a very tongue in cheek introduction to the characters. The film definitely takes the children's book style, as shots consist not of moving characters, but rather of static images of people standing in position, like they might in a cartoon or book illustration. When a character climbs out a window, he is seen halfway out the window as he says his lines, but he never makes the move. Next shot, he'll be all the way out, but when he does move, it will be without moving any limbs - rather, he is lowered beyond the view through the window as a crudely drawn cartoon might have moved.

Now, if all this sounds very wanky, fear not - The Living World does not take itself seriously in any kind of pretentious arty farty sense. It's merely a good time, mixed in with a little experimentation, and looking to do no more than give a couple of good actors a chance to shine (the actress who plays the Ogre's wife stands way above the rest, among a uniformly strong ensemble) and keep us giggling along the way.

I enjoyed it a lot, but did find that as time wore on, the gimmick wore thin. Perhaps a good thing then that the running time was only 75 minutes.

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originally posted: 10/21/04 15:55:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

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