It’s not every day that an auteur-driven, animated feature about the adventures of a dismembered hand makes it to the big screen. But then again, French animator Jérémy Clapin’s new feature I Lost My Body (J’ai perdu mon corps) is not your average, everyday kind of a movie. The beautifully mounted arthouse movie premiered as part of the very selective Critics’ Week sidebar at the Cannes Festival last month, and made a big splash at the Annecy Festival this week as well.
The unusual 2D pic is produced by veteran animation figure Marc Du Pontavice, the man behind thriving French toon studio Xilam and internationally popular titles such as Oggy and the Cockroaches, Les Daltons, Zig and Sharko and Go West: A Lucky Luke Adventure. This marks the first feature film directing job for Clapin, who is best known for his acclaimed shorts Skhizein (2008), Backbone Tale (2004) and Palmpideraium (2012).
Based on the 2006 novel Happy Hand by Guillaume Laurent (author of Amelie and A Very Long Engagement), the film centers on a cut-off hand that escapes from a dissection lab in order to be reunited with its body. As it scrambles through the pitfalls of Paris, it remembers its life with Naoufel (voiced by Hakim Faris), the young man it was once attached to, until he meets Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois), the young woman who steals his heart.
A Strange, Engrossing Tale
“It was the weirdest possible pitch, but I was very attracted to the story and bought the book rights, because I felt that only animation could really tell this story in the right way,” says Du Pontavice, during a recent interview in Cannes. “One of the most interesting challenges for us was how to create empathy for a character that has no eyes, no mouth, no face. Thanks to the miracle of animation, we are able to really feel for this cut-off hand and be interested in its quest to find its body. It has this mission to bring its owner Naoufel together with his lost love.”
After spending about 18 months working on the script, Clapin and Julien Bisaro (Bang Bang) storyboarded the entire movie. The bulk of the animation was done at Xilam’s studios in Paris and Lyon, using the open-source software Blender, and part of the CG animation was produced on the French isle of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. “It gives the movie a very distinctive look,” says Du Pontavice. “I believe it’s the first feature film made entirely with Blender. I can definitely seeing more people using it in the future.”
The film’s art direction is described as realistic and colorful, quite different from Clapin’s surreal and stylized approach in this shorts.. “It’s an interesting mix of 2D and CG techniques,” adds the producer. “We downgraded 3D with 12 images per second to avoid straight photorealism. Blender is a free software that adapts itself to the different needs of the artists.”
Director Jérémy Clapin adds, “Using 3D not only helped us create a tangible world, but also gave the animation a realistic look so we could avoid the trap of a classic 2D style. Employing Blender specifically was essential because of the ‘Grease Pencil’ which is a powerful drawing and 2D animation tool.”
Clapin mentions that the visual style of the movie sits midway between drawing and cinema. ”It’s both rough, pictorial and sophisticated. What would I like audiences to take away from the movie?” He asks. “I’d like them to look at their hand in a different way!” In other words, the movie will definitely reach out and touch audiences!
You can learn more at xilam.com/media/jpmc/
“One of the most interesting challenges for us was how to create empathy for a character that has no eyes, no mouth, no face.”
Producer Marc Du Pontavice