21 February 2010 | FlatSixMan
Jeunet at his best: A refreshing comedy which will brighten up your day.
Micmacs a tire-larigot (2009); Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet; Starring: Dany Boon, Julie Ferrier, André Dussolier, Dominque Pinon et al.
The announcement that Jean-Pierre Jeunet was making a new film made me happy and after seeing it I am even happier. Mr. Jeunet has delivered some weird, but exquisite films and this one is no exception. It is like a crossover between his earlier films with Marc Caro and his later ones. There are the whacky characters with weird hobbies from his earlier work, but it's not as dark as those. It actually has a bright atmosphere, like "Amélie".
In the film's opening we see a soldier failing to disarm a mine. Then follows a cut to some apartment in Paris where a phone rings. Some boy's mother picks it up and starts crying, while we're watching the boy's face sadden. Jeunet doesn't need any dialogue to convey what has happened. We move forwards in time and we see the now grown up boy, named Bazil (Dany Boon), working in a video store, watching a classic film. Outside a chase is going on, shots are fired and a pistol falls. Bazil stands up to watch this scene unfold, when he's hit by a bullet. The camera moves in on the TV screen and when that film ends, the Warner Brothers logo appears and "Micmacs" starts. The opening credits remain in the black and white of the finished film and a classic Max Steiner score plays gloriously over the credits, which was great to see once more on the silver screen. In these first minutes alone we already witnessed some of the most creative film-making of the decade. Jeunet has always been a very visual filmmaker and this prologue alone proves that he masters the art of visual storytelling. There's no need for dialogue. After the titles we see a doctor deciding Bazil's faith. Getting the bullet out of his head can permanently paralyze him and leaving it in can cause death at any moment. A coin decides for the latter option. At home he's in for a surprise though: his apartment has been rented out and his job has been taken. Luckily he can get his hat back from some neighboring kids, but that's about all he has left. He decides to earn money by performing on the streets, where he is picked up by Placard. He takes him to a scrap yard where he lives alongside other outcasts of society. These are all weird characters in the best Jeunet fashion. There is Tambouille, who takes care of them like a mother. There's Calculette, the daughter of a carpenter and a sowing lady, who can measure up anything and anyone with one look. There's Petit Pierre, who makes strange puppets from old materials (like a dancing dress). Then there's a person obsessed with his Guinness Book of Records entry for fastest living cannonball, Fracasse. Last but not least, there's the snake lady named Caoutchouc, who can assume all sorts of unnatural stances. And let's not forget Remington, who is part of the gang too. Their little society collects junk, making it into all sorts of sellable things, thus giving it a second life.
On a day though, Bazil finds the weapon manufacturers responsible for making the landmine which killed his father and the bullet which struck him. He decides to get his revenge, but only with the help of the unique talents of his comrades. His plan is weirder than you could possibly imagine. It basically involves getting the two manufacturers to destroy each other. How this is done is truly unique and very funny. They gradually turn up the heat and start irritating both in the name of the other. The way in which the plot moves forward and how the characters interact is typical Jeunet. It's by no means a serious film, but Jeunet delivers his fantasy world with great conviction, yet not taking it too seriously. That's why all of it works and makes perfect sense within this fantasy world and why it's great fun. Jeunet also provides a lovely touch by making some self-references. On multiple occasions we see our main hero driving past a poster of this film and in one scene he's eaves dropping on one of the weapon tycoons, when he accidentally lowers his microphone in the wrong chimney and overhears a scene from "Delicatessen". Another great touch was showing the power of modern day media like Youtube.
All actors played their characters well, with their strange characteristics brought forward in a very believable and endearing manner. Dany Boon shines in a performance reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin. He makes his character funny, touching and sad without the aid of dialogue, relying solely on body language. He does have some dialogue, but it is kept to a minimum. Dominique Pinon is a joy to watch as always. Although we've seen him as strange characters before, he remains fresh and he delivers another great oddball performance as Fracasse. Julie Ferrier plays Caoutchouc, who is in need of love and a great deal of attention and she acts really convincing. During the course of the film she and Bazil fall in love, which is shown very subtle. This makes it a joy to watch and when they finally kiss, it is such a tender moment. The other actors making up the gang are also wonderful, as are the two weapon tycoons. They're played by André Dussolier and Nicolas Marié and they make for very convincing villains with some bizarre habits.
Beautiful visuals and shots add even more, making this film a treat on all levels. It's incredibly funny and sometimes very touching, but above all it made me laugh and smile. The film still delivers a serious message about weaponry though, without it getting lost in the fun and without giving you a guilty feeling about feeling happy afterwards. This film is like a cool summer's breeze: completely refreshing.