Micmacs (Micmacs à tire-larigot)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest film is whimsical, absurd, endearing, and beautiful. It is exactly the sort of thing fans have come to expect from Jeunet: a cast of eccentric personalities, light-hearted treatment of sombre truths, and visuals slightly too fantastic for our world. Should we hold this against him? No; watching Jeunet play to his strengths is a treat.
The film stars Danny Boon as Bazil, a figure reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton character, who finds himself jobless, homeless, and penniless after he is injured in a drive-by shooting. The bullet lodges in Bazil’s skull, and presents the surgeon with a quandary: he may operate and remove the bullet, thus saving Bazil’s life but rendering him a vegetable, or he may leave the bullet in, thus saving Bazil’s mind but leaving him with an injury that can kill him at any moment. The nurse flips a coin; the surgeon leaves the bullet, and Bazil knows that any moment may be his last.
Bazil quickly falls in with a group of misfits who live in a scrap heap, including the ex-convict Placard (Jean-Pierre Marielle), the human cannonball Fracasse (Dominique Pinon), an inventor of Rube Goldberg-esque machines named, a contortionist, a former ethnographer from the Congo, and a girl with the preternatural ability to calculate anything. In yet another bizarre twist of fate, Bazil discovers the headquarters of the arms company that manufactured the bullet lodged in his skull: it is across the street from the arms company that manufactured the landmine that killed his father. Bazil and his new friends resolve to teach the heads of these two companies (Nicolas Marié and André Dussollier) a lesson in humility.
What follows is not a revenge fantasy. Rather, Bazil and his band of misfits use their wits to get the better of the industrial giants, pitting the two against each other with a series of creative thefts, acts of sabotage, and dirty tricks. Before long, the altitude record for a human cannonball is broken, explosions cause radiators to fly through the air, and a prize collection of famous person’s body parts is stolen (save Matisse’s finger, which is left in place, defiantly raised). Though the stakes are high, Juenet retains a whimsical touch and absurd mood that make this film a successful satire of the global arms industry. Throughout the film, we cheer for the brave clown Bazil and enjoy every cleaver trick and cheeky nod towards the audience. Moviegoers who ask a little more of their comedies should be sure to see Micmacs immediately.
– Dave Robson