Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review: Micmacs (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2010)

Micmacs is the new film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the acclaimed director of Delicatessen, Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, and true to his tradition of wildly inventive filmmaking with visual flair, Micmacs is a very cute film that doesn't disappoint.

I liked that almost all the characters were given a chance to shine and show their worth in the team. Danny Boon's Bazil was an extremely likable lead that was often found at the centre of all the action, with everyone framed around him. After he learns that his father was killed by a mine distributed by one major arms dealer, and that the stray bullet from a street shoot-out that had became lodged in his brain and could cause his death at an any moment, was branded by a rival dealer, he vows revenge on both companies.

Bazil, thought to have been killed by the bullet, is locked out of his apartment and replaced at his job. Down on luck, he turns to street vending to grab some quick cash before he is approached by an elderly gentleman called Slammer and invited into a troupe of misfits, whose base is located at the centre of a junkyard. Each member of the troupe has a distinct odd ability, and each proves to be useful for Bazil's plans. Set on revenge for those responsible for his run of luck, and discovering that the rivals hate one another, he works with his new friends to ruin them. Included in the troupe are a contortionist called Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), an Ethnographer from Congo (Omar Sy) and Buster (Dominique Pinon, a Jeunet regular), a man convinced he set the world record for furthest human cannonball.

The surveillance techniques range from the ethnographer posing as an interested buyer of armed weapons for an African nation, to members of the team posing as window cleaners and janitors to infiltrate company, to Bazil lowering a microphone into the fireplaces of the executives to eavesdrop on conversations. Elastic Girl, whose gift of advanced flexibility proved useful in many set-ups, hid in delivery boxes and collected evidence from inside their houses. It really is great entertainment, if a little too juvenile to accept without questioning how outrageous it really is. Some of the jokes and the situations are pushed a bit too far, and we almost have no time to breathe, as the film turns into a circus, almost totally absent of drama but with one thrilling sequence after another.

The title Micmacs may also refer to the term 'nic-nacs' which are random collected items for purposes of keepsake or memorabilia. The main base for the team is situated in a rubbish disposal site, with easy access to salvaged items. The existence outside this world feels real, but the interior is adorned with contraptions and odd inventions and a familial hierarchy. Jeunet succeeds in creating an otherworldy illusion, salvaging together quirky traits of his imagination to create a clever exploration of a world run by dual overbearing arms dealers. Like in Delicatessen, and especially Amelie, one of the more impressive features of Jeunet's films is his incredible use of warm colors. The image is rich in orange/sepia pastels and seems to glow. Colors like red, yellow, brown and green are dominant. They function as a welcoming invite to his bizarre world, complementing the odd characters and locations and succeeding in leaving you feeling happy and inspired by the imagery.

One major concern about Micmacs is the sheer ridiculousness of some of the elaborate contraptions they create and the traps they set. The excuse that they are salvaged goods is used often, but it just seems completely unbelievable that most of their set-ups are constructed almost immediately. The films' structure is also wayward at times and the rhythm almost too hyperactive. But Jean-Pierre never really works in the real world, and to view this film from a perspective that mirrors the real world, you will find it difficult to enjoy this film.

He creates a world that appears to be a glowing alternative reality that allows all these incredible events to take place. It's a venue controlled by the imagination, and as the title suggests, the plot is layered with moments of 'non-stop madness' that normally would seem out of place or make very little sense. In the worlds of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it's totally normal. Dany Boon is really likable in the title role, and the support of heroes and villains are equally effective. The upbeat score and the energetic cinematography are also used to great effect. Overall, I had a great time and was impressed, and Jean-Peire's filmmography remains relatively untainted.

My Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

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