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Movie review: The Young and Prodigious T.S Spivet

Updated on June 11, 2014

The term 'auteur' is one that is rarely used these days. Sure it's a little old fashioned, but the real reason for its absence is that there are very few around today.

If you're unsure to its meaning it was often used to describe (in the world of cinema at least) a director who managed to stamp his own visual signature on his work; a classic example being Alfred Hitchcock - if you were watching a Hitchcock film, you knew about it. The same can't be said for the director of Fast & Furious 6, Harry Potter 4 or Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

That's not to say that there aren't a few still knocking about today who have their own unmistakable style, including Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, and the director of this particular film Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

It's been five long years since his last inventive outing, the wonderfully surreal and silly Micmacs, and although his usual European sensibility has been replaced by Americana, there's no mistaking this for anything other than a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film.

Up in the vast wilds of Montana lives ten-year-old T.S Spivet (Kyle Catlett) on the family ranch. As the name may suggest, Spivet isn’t your average ten year old; he doesn't just have a love for science, he has an unusual understanding of it. After all, how many ten year olds can invent a perpetual motion machine? Well, Spivet did.

So impressed with his incredible talent, the Smithsonian museum have honoured him with the prestigious Baird prize. Unfortunately for Spivet, this acknowledgement of his abilities comes with two slight problems. The first is that the Smithsonian are completely unaware that Spivet is only ten. The second is that for Spivet to collect the award in person he would have to travel over 2,000 miles, which is a pretty big deal when you're only yay high.

Still, it sounds like too good an adventure to miss out on, so Spivet packs his small suitcase and leaves the family ranch behind with none of them any the wiser as to what he's up to exactly.

With originality sorely lacking for the most part in the film industry today, Jeunet's latest adventure in celluloid is a stunning reminder of what can be achieved in this medium.

Jeunet is an auteur with a unique vision; he's also an artist that uses the wide screen as a canvas; but most of all, and probably more importantly, he is one hell of a storyteller. Although the story of Spivet is a relatively simple one – a young genius wins a prize and decides to go and pick it up – it's all the extra details that Jeunet weaves into his story that makes it such a joy.

As you would expect from this creative force, the cinematography is outstanding throughout. It does come with a surprising element however: 3D. Up until now 3D has been a huge disappointment. Much of the time it has been tacked onto a film, just so they can bump the ticket prices up and make more money on it. The effect has been so lame in so many films that you could easily walk out at the end of a feature and forget that it was the 3D version you just sat through. Jeunet though, actually takes advantage of it.

Watching TS Spivet is a sumptuous visual experience. It often feels like sitting with a View-Master toy stereoscope strapped to your head with these striking 3D images flicking before your very eyes. If you have been mostly disappointed with 3D films, this one may well change your mind.

It's not all good new however. Although Catlett is likeable in the title role, there are times when it feels like the role is just slightly bigger than he is.

There's also an issue regarding steam; the film kind of runs out of it towards its conclusion.

This are minor niggles however, in what is not just a feast for the eyes, but a veritable visual smorgasbord. And as long as the likes of Jeunet are making films, there's hope for this industry we call film yet.

4 booms

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