Dave on film: Micmacs hits the mark
Skip the mainstream this week, I have a fun French film that I’m featuring instead. Can a film about a guy with a bullet lodged in his head trying to wreak revenge on the armory that made the ordinance be entertaining?
Jean-Pierre Jeunet hasn’t directed many films, but they’ve all been terrific, distinctive and stylish. Two you’ll hopefully have enjoyed already are The City of Lost Children and the weird Amélie. With Micmacs (original title Micmacs à tire-larigot), Jeunet moves into comedy with his signature quirkiness, and the result is delightful and hilarious.
The story revolves around misfit Bazil (an appealingly simple Dany Boon), who grows up in a wealthy, but fatherless house: his father has been killed while trying to defuse a landmine. Bazil is somewhat of a slacker who happily wiles away the hours of his life working in a video rental shop in Paris. One night, a car chase and shootout transpires in front of the shop and, he ends up with a bullet lodged in the front of his brain.
As the surgeon explains to the nurses in the operating room in a wryly amusing scene, “If we operate, he could die. If we don’t, it could go “boom!” at any moment and kill him.” They resolve the dilemma in a startling manner, and Bazil gradually recovers, just to find he is homeless and jobless.
Bazil meets up with a troop of fellow misfits, discarded people who scrape a living out of salvaging discarded items and reassembling them to be useful and interesting. The theme of the film, it’s simultaneously powerful and a terrific launching pad for lots of comic situations. Bazil eventually wreaks his revenge on the two corporations that were responsible for the land mine that killed his father and the bullet lodged in his skull in a complex series of cons and tricks reminiscent of The Italian Job and House of Games.
There’s a sense of visual inventiveness in Micmacs that is aided by cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata (Splice, La vie en rose) that contributes to the wonder of the movie. At times it’s as if we’re seeing a sort of human Rube Goldberg machine, where the sequence of events transpires in a logical but astonishing manner, with its conclusion just what Bazil desires.
Once Bazil becomes homeless, he’s adopted by a family of fellow misfits that live in a cave within a massive junkyard, notably including Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), human cannonball Buster (Dominique Pinon), master thief Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup), Congo (Omar Sy) and Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau), who acts as the house mother and leader of the group.
I’ll single out two of these as being particularly delightful: I really liked Calculator and found her a sweet, sympathetic character, and Congo, whose constant misuse of common clichés led to much hilarious dialog. In their own ways, each of the Micmacs group were misfits, offering up the perfect new family for Bazil, who had never found himself after the death of his father.
The antagonists are the owners of the two weapons manufactures, the thuggish Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (Andre Dussollier) and the suave, sophisticated Marconi (Nicolas Marié), who is a single father but is more interested in his television than his son, who is relegated to eating meals in the kitchen with his nanny while Marconi dines solo at a formal dining table.
They are both one-dimensional characters, and indeed, most everyone in Micmacs is similarly flat. Not even Bazil is a complicated character: he lost his father as a boy and subsequently became a loner. The story is reminiscent of the recent Toy Story 3, too: another film about misfits, toys that have been (inadvertently) discarded and are left to fend for themselves in a daycare center full of broken and damaged toys.
Micmacs had its flaws in terms of character development and depth, but the visual inventiveness and audacity of the cons create a delightful cinematic experience. For reasons I cannot fathom, the MPAA gave the film an “R” rating. I’d say a “PG” would be more appropriate.