So, for those of you who may not be familiar with the inner most workings of DrunkInAGraveyard.com – I’m here to tell you that aside from all things spooky and creepy, we are also lovers of the straight up bizarre. This extends out in many ways of course – into obscure kung-fu films, melt movies, art-rock, Tiny Tim, creepypasta lore, and fetishes of all kinds.. including a lesser known but still highly pilloried fetish known as object sexuality in which people claim attraction to otherwise inanimate objects – waifu pillows being an obvious example, but this tends to refer at least in the popular lexicon to things like cars (you know, when you spend the extra $16 on the chamois cloth at the store you can really shine those knobs on your 1992 Toyota Corolla?), or even most famously perhaps – the Eiffel Tower.
And if Alec Eiffel by the Pixies started running through your head, it’s fine, I’m right there with you because my brain is dogshit. Anywho, in 2007 American competitive archer Erika Eiffel (née Erika LaBrie) famously married the Eiffel Tower in a “commitment ceremony” after she had first “met” the tower in 2004 and felt an “undeniable” attraction to the structure. Erika seems to get around when it comes to sexy objects, as she also has a “relationship” with her long-bow “Lance” that she credits with her wins in the sport of competitive archery. But you know what they said, when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Erika also had a relationship for around twenty years with the Berlin wall. While I think this subject comes up most typically with derision in the public eye, Erika is not alone in her object sexuality. There is a small and apparently growing group of people who claim the same feelings.
So, with that in mind.. JUMBO is basically Zoé Wittock’s imagining on how one of these relationships may play out. So, JUMBO stars “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” star Noémie Merlant in the role of Jeanne, a young, socially awakward and sexually inexperienced woman who lives at home with her single mother Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot). Margarette is very boisterous, loud, and sexually progressive. She reminds me of a post-modern version of Chaucer’s ‘The Wife of Bath’ from the Canterbury Tales. Margarette wants nothing more than to see her daughter get dicked down and she urges her daughter to seek out life beyond their townhouse, and the oft-isolated and boring life they lead. When Jeanne gets a job at the local amusement park working nights cleaning up trash and discarded cotton candy, Jeanne is drawn to the park’s new main attraction, a huge brightly lit Tilt-A-Whirl called the “Move-It” that Jeanne later renames “Jumbo”.
Like most early courtships, especially ones that don’t fit the standard cis-het mold, Jeanne approaches Jumbo at first with a girlish shyness. She spends extended time polishing the many lights, exploring the mechanical object like the hands of an inexperienced lover exploring the body of their beloved. There is a fawn-like clumsiness to these initial meetings, and it reminded me of how first time queer relationships are often portrayed in media (Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall in ‘But I’m A Cheerleader’ comes immediately to mind). And I think, that’s really the point.
Jeanne’s manager, who represents the kind of ideal relationship her mother would like her to have is seen as eager to love Jeanne. He shows up uninvited at their home, and seems to at least feign interest in Jeanne’s quirky hobby of building wire model replicas of amusement park rides in the comfort and solitude of her bedroom. But, for all his efforts, Jeanne just is not interested him, preferring the metal and machine oil of Jumbo to the feeling of human hands.
Jeanne’s furtive relationship with the structure take a sexual turn when she is brought to her what is hinted to be her first and only orgasm with the machine, as it pulses neon lights in response to her inquiries, leading her to question the nature of if there truly can be a ghost in the machine. The visuals for this section are trippy and reminiscent of Color Out of Space cosmic psychedelia mixed with a kind of TOOL music video sensibility where Jeanne’s bare breasts get covered in motor oil, which was oddly… hot? It was like a sexy version of the Nobodies by Marilyn Manson.
When Jeanne confesses this tryst to her mother, her mother is completely horrified and thinks that Jeanne has finally lost her goddamned mind, and she reacts with a kind of anger and dismissal that is commonly portrayed in queer media when queer individuals come out to their parents. In a role reversal, it is Margarette’s boyfriend Hubert who is the supportive one of Jeanne, and he chides Margarette’s attempts to shame her.
As the climax Ohehe) of the film rolls around, we see Jeanne defiantly stand by her machine-man, in a scene that reminds me of the closing scene in another indie darling film “Little Miss Sunshine”. JUMBO’s highlights include the stunning performance from Noémie Merlant as wallflower Jeanne, though the characters existing around her, including her mother seem somewhat one dimensional. The forbidden love story itself isn’t really doing much that’s new, other than that the forbidden love aspect is a machine and not a person. There’s a kind of “coming out” piece here that made me remember why I like feel-good queer media like “But I’m A Cheerleader” and how important films like that can be for people who feel and are a little different.
I can’t claim to understand object sexuality and I’m not the voice to speak on it. And like Hubert says in the film, “sure it’s weird, but it makes her happy”, and really, that’s all that matters. I dolphinately cried at the end like a big sappy baby, and thoroughly enjoyed this flick. And if you’re into weird offbeat stories, you probably will to.
DIAG RATING 5/6 – some people love their car, and some people, REALLY love their car.
You can check out more of our Fantasia coverage here:
The Drunk in a Graveyard guide to the TEN FILMS we are most psyched about at Fantasia Fest 2020.
Our interview with Detention (返校) director John Hsu 徐漢強 is here and our review of Detention (返校) can be found here, coverage of THE OAK ROOM, coverage of The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw, coverage of The Undertaker’s Home (La Funeralia) is here, coverage of YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE is here, Brea Grant’s 12 HOUR SHIFT and Ryan Spindell’s THE MORTUARY COLLECTION can be found on our latest podcast episode, and coverage of Amelia Moses’s BLEED WITH ME, 上田慎一郎 Shinichiro Ueda’s SPECIAL ACTORS, Neil Marshall’s THE RECKONING, short film DOPPELBÅNGER here, as well as our podcast episode on Justin McConnell’s documentary Clapboard Jungle here. And be sure to stay tuned for more coverage coming up soon, and follow our social media to keep up!
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