Rated R, 104 min. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Starring Dany Boon, André Dussollier, Omar Sy, Dominique Pinon, Julie Ferrier, Nicolas Marié, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Yolande Moreau, Marie-Julie Baup, Michel Crémadès.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 25, 2010
Jeunet’s Micmacs resembles a live-action cartoon, one in which the set-pieces, the characters, and their actions all have the flavor of physical impossibility and unfettered imagination. This French film’s central character, Bazil (Boon), is a hapless young man who lost his father to a landmine in the Moroccan desert, and then during the film’s opening moments is felled in the Parisian street by a random bullet that lodges in his head as he leaves work. (Bazil is a clerk in a video store, where we see him mouthing all the dialogue by heart as he watches The Big Sleep, the classic Hollywood murder mystery whose tangled plot, in retrospect, is a portent of riddles to come.) Best known on these shores as the director of Amélie, Jeunet maintains some of that film’s puckish naivete in Micmacs while also utilizing some of the bizarrely makeshift visual aesthetics and discreet social commentary of his breakthrough films, Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Micmacs is not as sharply delineated as any of these prior films but is still charmingly packed with surprises and unforeseen delights. Chief among these are the Micmacs themselves, a band of scavengers whom Bazil moves in with after he’s released from the hospital with his bullet wound healed but his apartment and job gone. The Micmacs are an odd collection of junkyard angels whose personal narratives are as inventive as their surroundings. They live collectively in a ramshackle cave hollowed out of an immense junk pile, a wondrous vision that’s home to an endless supply of sight gags. Each character, too, is like a cartoon come to life. There’s Mama Chow (Moreau), who takes care of the clan after losing two daughters in a house of mirrors; Elastic Girl (Ferrier), a sensitive contortionist; Remington (Sy), an ethnographer from Brazzaville who writes down everything and utters back nonsense; Buster (Pinon), a human cannonball; Calculator (Baup), who counts everything the others bring home; and others. Together, they create an ultimate plan to assist Bazil once he discovers the true culprits behind the bullets that injured him and killed his father. The bad guys are also cartoon villains with strange fetishes and ambitions. It’s during this stage of the film as the Micmacs’ plan of retribution takes shape and unfolds – each character contributing in a way that suits his or her unique abilities – that the film bogs down a bit and Jeunet’s gentle political barbs come to the surface. Micmacs is never at a loss for imaginative frills; it’s the details of the plotting, however, that get somewhat mired in the weeds. (See "Vengeance Is Fine," June 25, for a related interview.)