Almost 20 years after establishing himself as one of cinema’s most chimerical directors with the deliciously surreal Delicatessen (co-directed by former filmmaking partner Marc Caro), Jean-Pierre Jeunet proves that his imagination is still a very fertile place with Micmacs. As whimsical and visually sumptuous as fans would expect, Micmacs finds Jeunet once again in top form following the critical success of 2004’s A Very Long Engagement. An impassioned director who refuses to rush the creative process, Jeunet proves that patience is most certainly a virtue by delivering a funny and affecting film that displays the energy, wit, and originality of his best works.
Sent to a Catholic orphanage after his father was killed by a landmine and his mother suffered a complete mental breakdown, Bazil (Dany Boon) was working in a French video store when a stray bullet struck him in the forehead. Incredibly, Bazil managed to make a speedy recovery from the near-death encounter, but now he’s homeless and jobless, with a hunk of lead rattling around in his cranium. When the new female clerk at the video store gives Bazil the casing from the bullet that struck him, he recognizes the insignia from the same weapons manufacturer that produced the mine that killed his father. Subsequently adopted by a ragtag group of scrap-heap squatters, Bazil discovers that the manufacturer of those weapons is right in his backyard, and begins plotting to seek revenge with the help of his newfound family, which includes eccentric numbers wiz Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup), crusty ex-con Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), compulsive ethnographer Remington (Omar Sy), sensitive contortionist Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), fearless Buster (Dominique Pinon), gifted inventor Tiny Pete (Michel Cremades), and matronly Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau). Everyone puts their talents to use as the team sets out to pit amoral warmongers Nicolas (Andre Dussollier) and Francois (Nicolas Marie) against one another and watch their empires crumble.
Micmacs is a revenge flick with a difference; instead of using violence to strike back at the men who don’t lose a wink of sleep over the fact that their abandoned mines maim children or their powerful bombs kill innocents, Bazil and company draw on their various individual talents to execute an elaborate plan that will humiliate their foes in front of the entire world. The result is something like a junkyard Mission: Impossible filtered through a Looney Tunes aesthetic -- a living, breathing cartoon distinguished by Jeunet’s unmistakable style and driven by first-time film composer Raphael Beau’s spirited score.
At a time when inspiration seems to be in short supply -- at least in regard to movies -- Jeunet proves that there are still original stories to be told, and creative ways to tell them. In Micmacs, Jeunet’s directorial skills are as strong as ever. And together with frequent collaborator Guillaume Laurant, he populates the story with the kind of sympathetic, eccentric characters that we love to cheer on, and instills it with a childlike sense of innocence and wonder that captures our imaginations. Creative flourishes like the vivid hallucinations Bazil experiences due to the foreign object lodged in his grey matter offer a telling glimpse into our lovable protagonist’s bruised psyche while simultaneously reminding us that we’re in the hands of a storyteller who truly understands the power of the moving picture.
It may be a bit of an overstatement to christen Micmacs an instant classic, but fans of Jeunet’s distinctive style will be pleased to note that it certainly ranks among his best work, not only for the fact that the film succeeds in addressing a rather serious topic in a way that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking, but for the simple fact that it’s essentially cinema in its purest form -- so powerful is the imagery in Micmacs that it could almost function as a silent film. Micmacs offers visuals that have the power to move us, make us laugh, and inspire us to see the world in a different light. Few filmmakers are fortunate enough to realize their inner visions so effectively on the big screen, and if it takes Jeunet another six years to craft his next feature, it will likely be well worth the wait to see what wonders he dreams up next.
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- Released: 2009
- Rating: R
- Review: Almost 20 years after establishing himself as one of cinema’s most chimerical directors with the deliciously surreal Delicatessen (co-directed by former filmmaking partner Marc Caro), Jean-Pierre Jeunet proves that his imagination is still a very fertile p… (more)