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Sitting by a campfire in the darkness, an old African man (Sotigui Kouyaté) describes the birth of the universe, drawing parallels between the ultimate origin of all things and the lifecycles of various creatures from birth to death.

Review by Jake Wilson:
It's nice to see Nature holding her own in this French wildlife documentary, which (minus the travelogue format) comes close to the kind of old-school whimsy parodied by Wes Anderson in The Life Aquatic. But where Anderson depended on stop-motion animation to bring his fantasies to life, the birds, fish and crustaceans who star in Genesis are every bit as colorful and outlandish as anything a Hollywood art department could dream up. 

The most memorable moments are the most cold-blooded: a large, globular frog, green and streaked like a watermelon, gobbles one of its smaller cousins with the insouciance of a monster in a Muppet Show routine. Children ought to enjoy that, and might find some fascination even in the cliched time-lapse sequences - a jellyfish melting away to nothing on the beach, or a peach rotting into the ground while grass grows around it. 

More actively irritating is the soundtrack, which makes heavy use of the trick that used to be called "Mickey-Mousing" (slow drum-beats on the soundtrack while a turtle plods along, and so forth). Nor can much be said for the framing device in which an African storyteller sits by a campfire like a lonely god and utters questionable truths about the meaning of life. 

The short version: everything in the world is born, eats, mates and dies. To the extent this is true, it's not exactly earth-shattering, and (as with the broad-brush mysticism of Koyaanisqatsi and its sequels) this kind of archetypal thinking has some rather dubious implications. It seems almost too obvious to point out that even aside from single-sex organisms, male-female attraction is by no means a "universal" law.

But then, biology is not this movie's strong point: up till the closing credits, none of the creatures on screen are even identified by name. On the whole, my advice is to wait for the DVD: switch off the subtitles and you have ninety minutes of convenient entertainment for the school holidays, though the kids would probably prefer to be taken to the aquarium or the zoo.

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NARRATION: Sotigui Kouyaté

PRODUCER: Christine Gozlan

DIRECTOR: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou

SCRIPT: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Patrice Aubertel, William Lubtchansky, Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou, Cyril Tricot

EDITOR: Pauline Casalis, Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte

MUSIC: Bruno Coulais

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jean-Baptiste Poirot

RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 11, 2005 (Melbourne)

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