Monday, March 30, 2020

I Lost My Body: I Found A Masterpiece

By José Alberto Hermosillo
I Lost My Body, USA Poster. Photo courtesy Netflix ©2019

“I Lost My Body” is a hypnotic and poetic animated masterpiece. Remarkable, surreal, bold, and fantastique!

The non-linear narrative unfolds in two parallel and symbolic universes, the Body and the Hand, which intricately converge at the heart-rending moment of separation.

The two leading players must face their unique reality. Naoufel, the body, is searching for love. The Hand, with a mind of its own, is searching for its body. Both characters struggle with a sense of belonging, intermittent reminiscences of their tragic past, and a mysterious quest for what truly matters.
I Lost My Body, Gabrielle, and Naoufel. Photo courtesy Netflix ©2019

Working as a pizza delivery boy, Naoufel meets Gabrielle, a young librarian who leaves a lasting impression on him. This is the first occasion someone shows him a ray of affection, and Naoufel falls for Gabrielle.

Gabrielle is a self-absorbed, hard-working woman who looks after her old father, the owner of a carpentry shop in danger of closing.

To break the routine and to be close to Gabrielle, Naoufel gets a job at the older man’s shop, where his life will change forever.
I Lost My Body. Photo courtesy Netflix ©2019

“I Lost My Body” is an artistic representation of life facing some tough existentialist questions.

The sublime and intricate French production is an adaptation of Guillaume Laurant’s novel Happy Hand.

Jérémy Chapin, director and Guillaume Laurant, writer. I Lost My Body. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2019

Mr. Laurant received his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Amélie 2001He also co-wrote A Very Long Engagement in 2004. Throughout a formal narrative, proper use of dialogs, and symbolism - in Laurant’s newest adaptation, viewers can get a sense of his innovative “freestyle poetry.”

“It must be peaceful to be cut off from the world like that. To see nothing... hear nothing...” Naoufel.

Jérémy Chapin, director of I Lost My Body. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2019

First-time director Jérémy Chapin took a modern approach to the narrative and structure of the book. The auteur teamed up with Laurant to adapt the script.
Chapin’s style consists of making visible the invisible, which he masterfully achieves in “I Lost My Body.”

Before filming, Chapin asked himself, “How do we make a hand a vibrant character?” He began by looking at his Hand and discovered how to show the Hand’s point-of-view, then used that perspective to animate the inanimate.
I Lost My Body, The Hand. Photo courtesy Netflix ©2019
To give authenticity to their unique character and to the rest of the film, Chapin went through an immersive experience with different animation techniques: abstract hand drawings, computer-generated animation, and CGI imagery.

“I Lost My Body” is a psychological fiction reaching universality and addressing lost love and other meaningful subjects.


The stunning soundtrack composed by Dan Levy is cosmic, mystical, and whimsical. We perceive ambient sounds blending in with classic, electronic, ethnic, contemporary, French rap, and lullabies. Digging deeper, a fusion of Buddhist and Middle Eastern music identifies with every character and complements the film’s haunting atmosphere.

I Lost My Body, French poster. Netflix ©2019
After I saw the film, I was intrigued by the similarities with the crawling Hand of the 1962 Mexican masterpiece “The Exterminating Angel/El ángel exterminador” by Luis Buñuel. I asked the director if he wanted to make a surreal piece of animation? He replied, “No. “I Lost My Body” is hard to place in a box... I avidly wanted to find what it means to be a human in the story.” 

Chapin’s experimental narrative explores and mixes different genres: action, drama, suspense, romance, and horror. The concept, bold and volatile, works perfectly.

I Lost My Body, Q&A. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2019

In recent years, only a handful of animated films can be considered existentialist, “Waking Life” 2001 and “A Scanner Darkly,” 2006; both films were directed by Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”). Salma Hayek’s production of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” poems, 2014. “My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea,” 2016, and the Oscar-nominated Swiss-made stop-motion animation “My Life as a Zucchini” also from 2016.

This highly original European animation is set apart from Hollywood’s conventional narrative by exploring more daring subjects with a fresher approach. If “I Lost My Body” was Pixar, the Hand would be talking.

I Lost My Body, sign. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2019

“I Lost My Body” won numerous awards, becoming the first animated film to win the Critic’s Week Grand Prize at Cannes 2019, the COLCOA Audience Award, and the Best Feature Award at the Annecy Film Festival. It also won three Anny Awards, including Best Independent Animation, Best Music, and Best Writing. The film crowned its award season with a César Award and an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.

To say, “I lost my body,” means declaring, “I lost myself.” 

Symbolically speaking, one is losing not only a part of the body but also dreams, goals, jobs, friendships, parents, love, and hope.

A melancholic feeling permeates through the entire movie. One must find a sense of belonging in a society that continuously alienates individuals and pushes them to a complete state of emptiness.

“I Lost My Body” has plenty of excitement, evocative moments, thought-provoking questions, and hopes to remind us about our forgotten dreams when we were kids.

Jérémy Chapin, director. Guillaume Laurant, writer. I Lost My Body. Film critic José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2019

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Troop Zero: Young Earthlings on a Mission

By José Alberto Hermosillo

AFI FEST FILM REVIEW: “Troop Zero” is one of the most refreshing movies of the year. An unforgettable underdog children’s adventure based on real-life events captivating audiences on Amazon Original - Prime Video.

In 1977, NASA sent two Gold Records to space with “The Sounds of the Earth” inside the Voyager spacecraft. NASA invited children from all over the world to record a greeting in their native language.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration commissioned a small town in Georgia to represent the country. Local children team up to compete for a slot in the recording.

Troop Zero cast at the AFI FEST red carpet. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

In there, we meet Christmas Flint, performed by young and talented Mckenna Grace (“Gifted,” “How to Be a Latin Lover”). Her mother’s absence makes the young dreamer feel that someone in space is listening.

Mckenna Grace, Troop Zero, AFI FEST. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

To reach her goal, Christmas recruits a group of misfit Birdie Scouts to compete against other “normal” groups. 

The purpose is to earn the most “merit badges” to succeed in the mission. 

Participating in those trials will bring children together and leave them fond, lasting memories of their experiences.

Director Bertie, writer Lucy Alibar, and “Troop Zero” cast. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

According to the directors Bert & Bertie, this vibrant and colorful film took two months of preparation and thirty-two days of shooting.

After reading the script, they were inspired to work on the original story of “The Voice Recording to Space Set in the 1970s,” something they considered meaningful because unconventional children were involved.

Bertie is the co-director of Troop Zero. AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

Bert & Bertie collaborated closely with screenwriter Lucy Alibar, who also wrote: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in 2012. Miss Alibar mentioned being open to suggestions and letting the actors collaborate during rehearsals.

In creating such “diverse” characters, she said that “they never put colors on them.” They only knew that they had to be racially mixed. Alibar also mentions she was inspired by her close friends: “They are so cool and different.”

The filmmakers said staging the dance scene was the most challenging part.

Allison Janney and Viola Davis in “Troop Zero.” Photo courtesy of Amazon Original ©2019 Prime Video

Having two Academy Award-winning actresses in the cast, Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) and Viola Davis (“Fences”), made the young actors feel star-struck. But as soon they started working with celebrities, the youngsters gained the confidence to act at their level. The young actors’ performances are authentic and praiseworthy.

The audience may feel that the action of this “brat pack” movie takes too long to take off, but in the end, “Troop Zero” is a rewarding movie to watch.

Troop Zero cast, AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

Other successful films that empower children and embrace the much-needed diversity in Hollywood are “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “And Hunting for the Wilderpeople.” These movies also portrayed adults and children in their unique and fantastic worlds.

Troop Zero cast. AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

The film teaches us that winning is not that important. What matters is to embrace our differences, accept each other the way we are, and gain confidence by participating in something larger than life that leads to personal gratification. 

“Troop Zero” is simple, but its freshness and lively characters exceed expectations, making the audience enjoy the ride to the end and beyond. 

Troop Zero cast and film critic José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

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