Dany Boon, Andre Dussollier, Nicolas Marie, Yolande Moreau, Julie Ferrier, Omar Sy, Dominique Pinon, Marie-Julie Baup
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant
Sony Classics (U.S.)
The Making of Micmacs; Q&A w/Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Julie Ferrier; Director's Commentary; Animations Absurd Deaths; French w/English subtitles
While one would have to be almost insane to consider Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs even close to on part with his nearly perfect Amelie, this light and breezy French comedy is quite wonderful in its own right with a fantastic and original visual style wrapped around a story that not so subtly hints at a message of peace, laughter, love and family.
As a child, Bazil (Dany Boon) lost his father during the war due to a land mine and, in a twist of fate that seems realistic only in French cinema, finds himself taking a bullet to the head as a young man while working at a local video store where he toils away reciting the dialogue alongside constantly playing cinematic classics and melodramas. During his recovery, he is replaced at the video store and finds himself homeless before being taken in by a rather motley band of innovative misfits including the maternal Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau), the appropriately named Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup), a wordsmith from the Congo (Omar Sy), the book-obsessed Buster (Dominique Pinon), a female contortionist called Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier) and Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), so named because, well, that's where he's spent much of hsi time. When Bazil stumbles upon two weapons manufacturers responsible for both his father's death and the bullet in his head, he concocts a Rube Goldberg-like master plan to score revenge and destroy the companies.
It saddens me that so many film critics, many of whom I deeply respect, have failed to connect with the film's gentle heart and romantic spirit citing a lack of identifiable characters with whom we find ourselves concerned or caring.
Amidst the visual feast created by Jeunet and his D.P., La Vie en Rose's Tetsuo Nagata, Micmacs possesses an extraordinarily simple yet touching love story that blossoms ever so slowly between Bazil and the slightly wounded yet enchanting Elastic Girl. Both are wounded souls strongly impacted by childhood acts of violence, and the way that Jeunet brings them together is romantic and sexy and infinitely sweet. The fact that he inserts such sweetness into such an outlandish and visually dizzying scenario is nothing short of miraculous.
One could argue, and many critics have, that Jeunet has unnecessarily populated Micmacs with over the top special effects and visual wizardry, yet there's something magical about Jeunet's refusal to succumb to a world that is painted grimly. There's an integrity in Jeunet's work that simply astounds even when, on occasion, one does look at the screen and think that, perhaps, Jeunet really had gone a touch too far. There's an underlying hopefulness and faith in humanity that permeates virtually every cell of Micmacs, even to the degree that it's admirable to observe that out misfit activists will go about their revenge in ways that are decidedly non-violent and consistent with their stated objectives.
The cast is uniformly strong here, Dany Boon not so much captivating the screen as he largely plays normalcy while surrounded by chaos. Boon manages to play just a touch off kilter yet remains surprisingly sympathetic and inviting. It's believable when Elastic Girl, tremendously played by Julie Ferrier, takes a shine to him and their subtle romance is the heart and soul of Micmacs. The film is really an ensemble piece, thus it feels wrong to consider anyone a supporting player. Suffice it to say that Julie-Marie Baup is a delight as Calculator, Jean-Pierre Marielle exudes a sort of Michael Caine quality as Slammer, Omar Sy is frequently hilarious with his wordsmithing and the rest of this misfit crew shines in their time on screen. As the respective heads of their weapons manufacturers, Andre Dussollier and Nicolas Marie are spot on with their entitled smarmy selves.
Having seen Micmacs in the theatre during its arthouse run through the U.S., it was a bit surprising to note how much more enjoyable the film was the second time around while screening it for its home video release on December 10th with distrib Sony Classics. It's a perfect DVD or Blu-Ray purchase for your favorite fan of French cinema, an absolutely delightful and entertaining film from one of the masters of contemporary French cinema.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic