05th Apr2018

‘Mecanix’ Review (Unearthed Films)

by Andy Stewart

Stars: Stéphane Bilodeau, Julie-Anne Côté, Philippe Chabot | Written by Rémy M. Larochelle, Mélissa Hébert | Directed by Rémy M. Larochelle

mecanix-dvd

Following on from my review of Phil Stevens’ blistering Lung, I continue to work my way through the releases being proffered by the fellows at Unearthed Films. This one, I have to say, took me entirely by surprise. I went in to Mecanix totally cold and found myself suitably impressed.

Roaring forth from the hazy days of 2003, Mecanix is the first, and thus far only, feature from Canadian film-maker Remy M. Larochelle. With that thought in mind, it really is a remarkable achievement.

Blending expressionistic stop-motion animation with live action, Mecanix is a glimpse into a twisted engine world in which humans exist in captivity, living in apparent servitude to a race of hideous, bio-mechanical creatures who desperately seek an object called “The Embryo” while one of the last free humans may in fact hold the key to restoring some measure of balance to the world.

It’s important to say that you could be forgiven for not clearly following the exact course of proceedings – the simple story at the core of Mecanix is easily lost when we are confronted with the genuinely impressive visuals on offer.

Let me try to paint a picture of what you’ll find when you delve into Mecanix.

Imagine the twitching stop-motion madness of The Clangers and Bagpuss, doused liberally with lashings of the surrealism found in David Lynch’s Eraserhead and crucially, (for me at least) a healthy sprinkling of Shinya Tsukamoto’s arthouse cyber-body horror, Tetsuo: The Iron Man and you are on the right track.

Mecanix is a film that almost defies categorisation. It is a disjointed and jarringly bleak nightmare vision, captured on 16mm and painted in shades of warm sepia. This is a film that harkens back to a simpler time. A time where cinema was in its infancy and a brave few filmmakers dared to be different and experiment within this blossoming medium. Dialogue is scattered and sparse, serving to reinforce that “silent movie” vibe.

If you told me that this film was made in the 1920’s, I could accept that.

Imagine then if someone had rifled through Ray Harryhausen’s bins, scavenging for his discarded works. Those ideas that he deemed too weird to finish. Imagine too that this “someone” then took that weirdness and ran with it, stripping the designs back to their most basic forms, at times down to their wire frame maquettes. Such are the denizens of Larochelle’s world. These creations are creaky, juddering beings of bone and wire that work perfectly alongside their fleshy live action counterparts.

While I have no problem whatsoever with disjointed storytelling, Mecanix spends a lot of time revelling in repetition which verged on grating at times and given the relatively tight runtime (70 minutes with credits), I could have done without. That said, I was so enamored with the film that it was ultimately no more than a trifling grumble and easily overlooked.

While not as intensely ferocious as most of the other films on the Unearthed slate (there is still some pretty grisly stuff to be found here), make no mistake that this little slice of the bizarre is a beast that stands tall and one that more than holds its own alongside its claret-stained labelmates such as the American Guinea Pig series and Phil Stevens’ Flowers.

With Mecanix, director Larochelle displays an admirable dedication to bringing his nightmare vision to life and to crafting a truly mind-boggling feast for the eyes. If you can appreciate the art-house aesthetic and like your viewing a little harder to penetrate, then take a peek!

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