Metropia (2009)

Rating: C-

Dir: Tarik Saleh
Star (voice): Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis, Sofia Helin, Udo Kier

This was certainly a surprise, because coming into this I had absolutely no idea it was animated. And the technique is a weird, disconcerting one too, taking actual faces and Photoshopping them into something best described as looking like human bobble-heads. This plays out against an Kafkaesque background of overwhelming bureaucracy, in which Roger (Gallo) lives a largely boring life, except for the voices in his head, which he hears when he rides the massive underground network of trains that now connects all the European cities. He has a girlfriend (Helin), but hardly seems in love with her, and is more obsessed with a shampoo model, Nina.

One day, forced to take the subway system, he sees Nina and follows her. She startles Roger by telling knows about the voices in his head, and this turns out to be his gateway into a massive conspiracy, which is using the shampoo Nina advertises, in combination with the underground, to exercise mind-control over the population. It would probably have worked better as a short film than a feature. After a certain point, you wonder why it was done as animation at all, as the visual style, while intially striking, tends eventually to distract from both the plot and the characters. You spend as much time wondering whether they have unfeasibly-large pillows, and so forth.

The main point of animation is to open things up to portray anything you can imagine: this is more of a drab, beaten-down version of our world, though the voice-acting is solid. Even when you can’t see him, it’s always a pleasure to see Udo Kier, here playing the man at the top. Things play out somewhat predictably, with Roger becoming involved, at the behest of Nina, in a plot ot destroy the mind-control mechanisms, though I was amused to see the explosive device in question housed in the stomach of Hello Kitty! It’s just about interesting enough to sustain the viewer’s interest through one viewing, even if it lags somewhat in the middle. I can’t see it being worth any more than that.