“Marcel the shell (with his shoes)”: the fabulous destiny of a periwinkle in an Airbnb

“Marcel the shell (with his shoes)”, by Dean Fleischer Camp.


The historic stranglehold of Hollywood studios on world animation, with efficiency and creativity that no longer needs to be demonstrated, has the counterpart of bringing out more clearly the singular virtues of other creative regions. This was the case for a long time with the former Soviet bloc, which excelled in stop-motion animation, and of course with France, which was one of the pioneers of the genre. There is, however, on American soil itself an independent, counter-cultural, lesser-known production that has always stood out from the majority production.

This category should include Dean Fleischer Camp, who delivers with Marcel the shell (with his shoes) a melodrama with crisp freshness, endowed with a soft poetry and a surrealist inspiration, a breath of fresh air created between real shots and 3D animation.

Its main character, the said Marcel, is a small periwinkle-type shell, whose shell presented horizontally constitutes the head, encrusted at the right end with a gigantic eye with a soft green rim, and placed without any other skeletal transition on two feet shod in a sort of pair of beige and orange Pataugas. This young boy, as we will soon learn, is also endowed with a very particular voice and tone that have the gift of melting anyone who hears them.

Intimate mise en abyme

Living with her grandmother Connie in a vast house rented through Airbnb, her existence, confined to sock drawers and a few forays into the vegetable garden cultivated by Connie, nevertheless punctuated by ingenious diversions of the existing furniture, until this film will not have been detected by anyone, until the installation in the house of a new tenant, a director (the author of the film), who begins a privileged relationship with him and decides to devote a documentary. Less, no doubt, because the creature is a two-centimeter-tall seashell that masters the English language and exhibits a certain depth of wit than because these two were meant to be together.

Marcel is indeed a young boy full of life and faith in the future, but secretly inconsolable, because he lost all his family, except Granny Connie, the day when previous tenants, a young couple, had a serious argument and when the man suddenly packed his suitcase, taking all of Marcel’s relatives in his socks, before disappearing into the wild. As for the director, we understand half-word that he is trying here to recover from a breakup, as brutal as the previous one. The interesting thing is that the feature film – remarkable for the emotion and the tenderness that it manages to confer on such a preposterous story – itself proceeds from an intimate mise en abyme which undoubtedly illuminates this sentimental depth. .

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