MICROBE ET GASOIL || 2015, France || Comedy || Directed by – Michel Gondry / Written by – Michel Gondry / Produced by – Georges Bermann, Serge Hayat, Inigo Lezzi / Music by – Jean-Claude Vannier / Cinematography by – Laurent Brunet / Editing by – Elise Fievet / Starring – Ange Dargent, Théophile Baquet, Diane Besnier, Audrey Tautou / Running time: 105 mins.
Michel Gondry’s Microbe and Gasoline is a charming coming of age tale that revolves around its two titular adolescent male characters. The two have different personalities, but are both seen as outsiders by their peers. Microbe, real name Daniel, is too short for his age, regularly mistaken as a girl due to his long hair, is introverted and nurtures an interest in art. Gasoline, real name Théo, is a blue collar kid who is far more carefree and uncaring of other people’s judgement, with a hobby for building engines that leaves a smell on him and stains on his clothes to which he owes his hated nickname.
Microbe and Gasoline stands out because of its respectful air with which it channels the spirit of its characters and their viewpoint on things and issues, such as love, sex and class divides, defined by their ages. The story of their friendship then culminates through a journey on which the two embark, on a makeshift vehicle of their own creation, disguised as a small house, which we feel will be a landmark moment in both their lives, an event that will inevitably mark the end of their childhood. Such a respectful representation is helped by the fully formed characters, that are among the best representation of early adolescent male characters of recent memory, thanks to their depths, distinctive traits and also their memorable dialogues that provide a further insight on their mindset. Even the charming sentiments of nostalgia, highlighted by a somewhat restrained but evident style and art direction particularly related to some of the props, never quite overshadow the overall intentions of the original vision.
Despite the definite linear storyline, the construction of the film feels free and exciting, sometimes reminescent of the Antoine Doinel films by Francois Truffaut. It is also because of this that Microbe and Gasoline feels like Gondry’s most satisfying film since his masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as well as an entertaining and meaningful comedy drama on which the filmmaker feels less restrained and much more comfortable than most of his previous outings. It should please a mature audience as much as a teenage one. – 4/5