Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. France. 2009. 105 mins.
Micmacs is a pleasing original comedy with charm to spare: Jean Pierre Jeunet’s breeziest film to date, even as it delivers a strong message against landmines and arms dealing. Bearing the director’s inimitable visual imprimatur, and with Welcome to the Sticks’ Dany Boon in the central role, Micmacs is set to be one of the season’s biggest hits in France when Warner Bros opens it on Oct 28.
The execution and editing of his conceits are expert and constantly surprising, and the sight and audio gags are frequently brilliant.
Sony Pictures Classics has US distribution rights and should score a notable success with the boundlessly inventive Micmacs, if not quite Amelie’s $33m in 2001. International distributors who bought the title from TF1 International are also looking at one of the more warmly received non-English language films of this year or next, and can promise audiences the same infectious package they got in Delicatessen and Amelie.
Micmacs has the added value of playing to a family audience and its ingenious plot machinations, imagination and broad humour will delight children as well as adults. After a mis-step with A Very Long Engagement, Jeunet is back on form with a pure entertainment that will find a very large audience.
The film’s first section, in characteristic Jeunet back story fashion, whisks through the early life of young Bazil, whose father is killed by a landmine while serving in the army (possibly Algeria). His mother becomes insane, and he ends up in an orphanage. As an adult, Bazil is working in a video store when a stray bullet from a gangland shootout lands in his head and he is almost killed.
Out of hospital, where doctors have decided to leave the bullet lodged in his brain, Bazil finds himself jobless and homeless and is befriended by an ex-con called Placard (Marielle) who welcomes him into an endearing family of misfits living in a scrap heap and surviving by salvaging junk
The group is led by the maternal Tambouille (Moreau) and includes numbers genius Calculette (Marie-Julie Baup), former Guinness Record holder as a human cannonball Fracasse (Jeunet regular Pinon) and contortionist Caoutchouc (Ferrier).
One day on a salvaging drive, Bazil encounters two office buildings one across the street from one another – rival arms manufacturers, one of which manufactured the landmine which killed his father, the other the bullet which nearly killed him. He and his new family set out the corrupt and arrogant heads of the firms (Dussolier and Marie) by pitching them against each other in a series of brilliant tricks.
The elaborate stings which Bazil and friends mount on the two arms dealers make up most of the film’s running time and each is more entertaining and elaborate than the last, using all of Jeunet’s considerable ingenuity. The execution and editing of his conceits are expert and constantly surprising, and the sight and audio gags are frequently brilliant. The cast, led by a relatively non-verbal Boon, whose popularity can only continue to soar after Micmacs, is perfectly attuned to the humourous shenanigans.
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Warner Bros Entertainment France
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