Introduction

Micmacs

Micmacs
  • Country of production: France
  • Year: 2009
  • Certificate: 12A
  • Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Running time: 104 minutes
 

Micmacs is a vibrant urban fairytale from JEAN-PIERRE JEUNET, the acclaimed French director of Delicatessen (1990), The City of Lost Children (1995), Amelie (2001) and A Very Long Engagement (2004). Its ingenious plot centres on a group of resourceful misfits who provoke two rival arms dealers into fighting one another. The toast of many film festivals prior to its cinema release, it is ‘pure entertainment' - ‘a pleasing original comedy with charm to spare' and ‘brilliant' visual and wordplay gags that is ‘boundlessly inventive' (Mike Goodridge, Screen International).

Sue Harris, writing in Sight & Sound, added: ‘Jeunet is very much at the top of his game, one of the few French directors whose style is immediately recognisable to international mainstream audiences, his name a guarantee of old-style craftsmanship and the pleasures of storytelling.'

Popular French actor DANY BOON stars as Bazil, whose father was killed by a land mine when he was a child 30 years ago and who is hit by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting that gets lodged in his brain. Our cheerfully downtrodden hero finds himself on the streets of Paris, but busks his way into the hearts and home of a group of colourful characters, including an inventor and a contortionist, who live in a scrap yard and survive by salvaging junk.

At its heart this film is about this group of creative people working together in a way that's both thought-provoking and feelgood, highlighting as it does the horrors of the arms industry while maintaining a light touch and remaining inherently entertaining.

Jeunet explains that he was concerned to avoid making the arms dealers seem like caricatures, so he undertook research that included visiting a weapons factory in Belgium. He recalls: "[They were] really nice people, technicians who talk so passionately about their factory it could be a chocolate shop, only when the new caramel they've just invented hits its target, it makes the tank heat up to 4,500°! Which means that on the inside everyone burns to a crisp in a fraction of a second!"

Re-view

Micmacs

CINEMATIC NICK-NACKS SALVAGED AND GALVANISED

‘True to form, every frame of his [Jeunet's] latest film is a masterpiece of composition and colour. His characters are familiar oddballs, refugees from the world of fairytales, compulsively grotesque but endearing in their innocent, tic-ridden freakishness. Their journey to quiet triumph (good trumps evil in fairytales old and new) is sprinkled with the stardust of whimsy and magic, and invites the audience to rejoice in cinema's power to reorder circumstances for good.'

(SUE HARRIS, SIGHT & SOUND)

Something in mind

The bullet in Bazil's head gives Jeunet and his co-writer Guillaume Laurant the pretext, as Jeunet puts it, to "slip into fantasy, delirium, imaginary worlds... like so many little films within the film, little parenthetical animated sequences". This sort of impossibly complicated fantasy is one of Jeunet's cinematic calling cards, along with characters as curious as they are charming, visual flair and a sense of joie de vivre.

Circus of curiosities

Cast out from work and home, our hero Bazil finds a set of friends who have also been rejected by mainstream society and who accept him as he is. They resemble comic-strip superheroes who have endured trauma and developed specialist skills or, as Jeunet puts it, an unlikely version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A fellow outsider, Bazil's new disability helps him to fit in with the gang and assists him in his mission, his senses apparently sharpened by the bullet in his brain.

Jeunet has placed some of France's most recognisable talents in the scrapheap. Dany Boon appeared opposite Daniel Auteuil in hit comedy My Best Friend (Mon Meilleur Ami) (2006) and with Diane Kruger in Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël) (2005). Meanwhile diminutive actor Dominique Pinon will be familiar to international audiences as Joseph from Amelie (2001) and from Hollywood fare such as Alien: Resurrection (1997), in which he played Vriess. Bazil's love interest, contortionist Elastic Girl, is played by Julie Ferrier, who appeared recently in A Day at the Museum (2008).

It's a classic underdog tale, but the baddies are not so much demonised as ridiculed. Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (veteran French actor André Dussollier, who also appeared in Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement) avidly collects morbid celebrity memorabilia - namely, the body parts of dead historical figures. His adversary, François Marconi (Nicolas Marié), meanwhile, is deflated by his son's confusion when he boastfully compares himself to Rimbaud. This sense of grandiose absurdity is present throughout Micmacs, but doesn't prevent Jeunet from delivering a carefully worked thriller plot that sees the good guys taking on the bad guys armed only with their own ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Carnival of contraptions

If the cast at times resemble a circus troupe, there's a sense of carnival about the production design. Tiny Pete (Michel Crémadès, a staple of French cinema) constructs incredible Heath Robinson-style automated sculptures (in reality the work of Parisian artist Gilbert Peyre) that reflect the joyous salvation of the oddball gang members themselves and the inventiveness of all of them. ‘The gang employ giant magnets and human cannons: you half expect an Acme anvil to plummet from the sky' (Wendy Ide, The Times).

From Brazil to Bazil

Bizarre, visually imaginative and by turns both nightmarish and humorous, Micmacs is reminiscent of the work of Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton. The inspiration for much of the comedy within the film is drawn from silent movies. A hero of few words who is the fall guy and clown in numerous funny situations, Bazil conjures up memories of Jacques Tati, Charlie Chaplin (notably in the scene where he pretends to get in a taxi) and Buster Keaton: ‘Wry slapstick gags and chains of fateful events lead a feckless protagonist through the bewildering mysteries of life' (Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter).

The film is also enlivened by its ploy of recycling some of the icons of classic cinema, including dialogue that Bazil mouths from The Big Sleep (1946), the Warner Brothers credit sequence and soundtrack compositions of Max Steiner from films such as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).

 
Pro-files

Micmacs

 
Cinemas

Micmacs

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