An Alternative Guide to Great Movies: Micmacs (2009)
- Credit: Archant
Films with re-watch value, movies with a unique quality, will become the classics of the future. Arts editor Andrew Clarke presents a series of idiosyncratic suggestions for movies that may entertain if you are in the mood for something different.
Micmacs; dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet; starring: Dany Boon, Andre Dussollier, Nicolas Marie, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Yolande Moreau, Dominique Pinon, Julie Ferrier, Michel Cremades, Cert: 12 (2009)
This is a series which celebrates the quirky and seeks out movies that have something different to offer. You will be hard pushed to find a movie quirkier or more different than Micmacs.
Created by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of the imaginatively gentle Amelie, Micmacs is a wonderfully entertaining romp through the backstreets, sewers and junk yards of night-time Paris.
This isn’t a traditionally romantic film, filled with hearts and flowers and lingering shots of the Eiffel Tower at twilight, it’s a tough-talking satire on the harsh, conformist nature of the modern world and yet, in its own contradictory way, it is as lovingly romantic as Amelie.
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Instead of the wide-eyed Audrey Tautou being the object of our affection it is a bunch of scruffy, yet resourceful misfits, that ultimately win our hearts. This is Jeunet’s plea not to judge by appearances.
As with Amelie and Delicatessen, Jean-Pierre Jeunet creates a visually sumptuous world for his characters to inhabit. It’s a world constructed with an obsessive attention to detail. Much of the action takes place in a makeshift series of rooms, buried beneath a junkyard. Nothing is what it seems. Found objects are inventively re-purposed and put to new uses.
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Micmacs puts the Wombles to shame. It is the ultimate recycling story. It is a story of a group of oddballs who defiantly manage to live life on their own terms.
It’s a film filled with wit and humour and the inventive way it is told reflects the quirkiness of its subjects.
We are introduced to these people through Bazil (Boon), who is shot by a stray bullet as he leaves his video shop. The origin of this bullet becomes one of the central themes of the film and an obsession for Bazil.
As result of his injury, Bazil becomes homeless and is given sanctuary by the Micmacs. With their help he discovers that two rival Parisian arms dealers manufactured the bullet that hit him and the landmine that killed his father when he was a child – we get to see a potted history of his life as a film within a film.
Jeunet artfully strings together all the events which have shaped Bazil’s life up to the point when he was shot. Aware that it is big business that has landed them all in their respective predicaments, Bazil plots revenge and his new found friends want in on the plan.
With the bullet lodged in his brain, he realises that time may be short and so the Micmacs use their inventive junk to engineer a way to get the arms dealers Dussollier and Marie to take on one another.
If this sounds dark, don’t worry because the madcap nature of the comedy and the eccentric characters give the film a vitality and a bizarre sense of visual energy which propels the film along. The darkness of the back story also gives the film a sense of gravatus that most comedies lack. The strength of the performances also give the film depth and an emotional heart that pulls you into their world.
You care about these strange individuals: the jailbird Slammer (Marielle), motherly Mama Chow (Moreau), human cannonball Buster (Pinon), inventor Tiny Pete (Cremades), cliche-spouting writer Remington (Sy), the always-analysing Calculator (Baup) and Bazil’s reluctant love interest, the bendy Elastic Girl (Ferrier).
It’s a brilliant comic confection that is bursting with imagination and never takes its audience for granted. As a result it is always springing surprises on us, catching us off guard with moments of hilarious comedy and tender humanity.
The film comes to a climax with a series of laugh-out-loud caper sequences that Hollywood just doesn’t do any more. It’s a riot of slapstick, double-takes and inventive sight-gags which Jeunet plays out with expert timing.
For a film filled with larger-than-life characters, it’s impossible to celebrate performance over another but Dany Boon deserves recognition for keeping Bazil believable and therefore vulnerable. I also enjoyed Andre Dussollier as de Fenouillet. You know a villain is a real villain when they collect spare parts from the cadavers of evil men.
Micmacs is very silly, but it’s also great fun. If only all films were as imaginative as this.