The heart-warming unpretentious French comedy film Microbe & Gasoline is a wonderful choice to be included on the program for the 2016 Alliance Française French Film Festival, commencing at Palace Cinemas in Australia on March 1, 2016.
‘Inventive charm’ has become a hallmark of French Director and writer Michel Gondry, and his latest film Microbe & Gasoline is a true gem.
He tempers his touch, producing a sincere and very sensitive portrait of two twelve year old misfit adolescents, trying to sort out their place in a pre-internet world.
Daniel aka Microbe (Ange Dargent), and his new friend at school Théo aka Gasoline (Théophile Baquet), have been given their nicknames by schoolmates.
Daniel has a brilliant talent for drawing, but through the long hair hanging annoyingly in his face most of the time, he seems androgynous, and is more than often mistaken for a girl.
The kids at school consider him a bit of a ‘nerd’. However he learns from his new best friend that in tough times you keep your head high.
Théo transfers into Microbe’s class from another school and is very quickly named Gasoline when the kids find out that he knows his way around an engine, considered a bit of a ‘gearhead’.
Gasoline is cocky and outgoing, while Microbe is often frail and introverted, but these two are destined to become friends after being forced to sit next to each other for the first time – one is the ying to the other’s yang.
Gasoline believes that school bullies today are tomorrow’s victims and does a great deal to ease his friend’s way in life, offering some wonderful stories like the ‘woman with the golden arm’ and other insightful pearls of wisdom as they journey life’s road together.
Microbe and his elder brother share a room while his exceedingly odd parents, including his mother played interestingly by acclaimed French actress Audrey Tatou, have all sorts of dramas going down.
Gasoline also has a very unhappy life with equally dysfunctional parents; his father a disgruntled disillusioned second hand and very dubious antique dealer, while his sad, massively overweight mother has a heart condition.
Both the boys have no real friends and generally agree that they won’t give in to pressure and be normal.
Breezy, bountiful and beautiful to look at, this movie is definitely a labour of love for its Director. He offers a wonderful insight into the minds of young men endeavouring to weave their way through the challenges puberty and the passage to manhood throw their way.
Movies about adolescents are not usual in the scheme of things, especially when screened to an adult audience. However at the packed press preview 30+ grown ups were all laughing heartily, and out loud at the often-hilarious scrapes these two charmers get into together.
They were perhaps reminded of some of the most awkward moments during their own rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood.
The unlikely pairing of these two boys is highlighted and enhanced by the wonderful portrayals produced by these two young actors.
They certainly ensured that our audience felt like voyeurs on a real adventure as it happened, from beginning to end, and as they grow in both stature and wisdom.
The boys live in the ancien regime village of Versailles, where a larger than life image of King Louis IV (1638-1715) looms overhead on a pedestal.
How much of this delightful farce is modelled on Gondry’s own experience is left to the imagination, perhaps suffice to say that apart from growing up in the same town, he is also the son of an inventor.
What we discover is that life in Versailles is enjoyed at a pace very different to that of Paris where unwanted household goods are abandoned in the street, much like here in South Yarra!
Microbe & Gasoline both decide they are going to split and take a summer holiday together by taking an unconventional road trip from the outskirts of Paris to the woods in Burgundy in a car they decide to build from all the ‘scrap’.
However faced with not being able to have their very ‘cool’ first ‘vehicle’ registered, they decide to turn it into what turns out to be a charming ramshackle rickety mobile house on wheels.
The plan is that they can park this delightful confection on a grass verge and fool the police if they look like pulling them over.
The hilarious outcome of this is that the scheme, when brought into play, really works.
Built by two boys, who love being rebellious, playing pranks and share a love for gadgets, the ‘building’ itself is full of charm.
Microbe & Gasoline’s escape pod is fashioned by history; a private meeting place and a place of leisure.
The design inspiration for their house on wheels comes from the director’s nostalgia for his own childhood living nearby to ill feted Queen Marie Antoinette’s rustic retreat le Hameau de la Reine, built in the gardens of the chateau at Versailles.
One of the anomalies of French life is that when Louis XVI’s courtiers were fawning admiration over the splendour that was Versailles, Marie Antoinette awarded French country life with the royal seal of approval by highlighting its importance.
Although they chopped off her pretty head they did not forget, and the combination of their fashionable pride and rural conservatism led to the regional style being preserved.
Microbe & Gasoline’s rustic cottage on wheels comes complete with a wooden door, a country style roof with a dormer window, two windows at ground level, one round like King Louis XIV’s famous gilded circular windows overlooking the courtyard at the chateau, from where he used to spy on his own courtiers.
The other window is square and Gasoline adds a window box full of gorgeous geraniums, a colourful touch to this delightfully shuttered ‘French country style’ window, which on the interior sports lace curtains.
Inside their purpose built vehicle with its reconditioned two stroke lawnmower motor, the boys ensure their compact home is entirely liveable, with a place to sleep, cans of food and a shovel with plenty of toilet rolls on a shelf to cater for their personal needs.
Microbe, who is surely Gondry’s alter ego, has an earnest affection for a girl at school the lovely Laura (Diane Besnier) and while she returns it privately, she shuns his attentions publicly and for him it’s a real dilemma.
He discovers her family has a house in the countryside of Morvan in Burgundy, which is not where Théo wants him to go, but Daniel convinces him to change their route.
The boys talk about everything while on the road including girls and masturbation, making the story as breezy as a mistral in the south of the country in summer.
On the way after one animated conversation they share, Daniel decides to have a haircut in the next town they come to. This turns into a truly hilarious encounter we would not want to spoil.
This is a truly special movie about the yearnings of youth and you will not fail to be enchanted by not only its charm, but also the performances of the wonderful Microbe & Gasoline, who certainly captured all our hearts.
When our friends eventually lose their innocence during the last act, Gondry ensures that we all feel it very deeply.
This will be one of the unfailingly French feel good movies of the year.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Watch the Trailer
AF French Film Festival 2016
MICROBE & GASOLINE (Microbe et Gasoil)
Director & Writer: Michel Gondry
Cast: Ange Dargent, Théophile Baquet, and Audrey Tatou & Diane Besnier
Michel Gondry presents an unpretentiously charming film about the friendship between two 12 year-old boys – shy Daniel and extroverted Théo – who embark upon an exciting adventure in an automobile that they construct from scrap metal.
National dates and venues for the
2016 Alliance Française French Film Festival:
SYDNEY: 1-24 March Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, and Chauvel Cinema & Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace
MELBOURNE:] 2-24 March Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth, The Kino Cinemas & The Astor Theatre
CANBERRA: 3-29 March Palace Electric Cinema
BRISBANE: 11 March – 3 April Palace Barracks & Palace Centro
PERTH: 16 March – 7 April Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX & Windsor Cinema
ADELAIDE: 31 March – 24 April Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas
CASULA: 7-10 April Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
PARRAMATTA: 7-10 April Riverside Theatre
HOBART: 28 April – 4 May State Cinema