Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: Micmacs

Micmacs [Micmacs à tire-larigot]
Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Year: 2010
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 105mins

By this stage of the game, I imagine cinema audiences who are aware of the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet would fall into one of three camps. They could be big fans and will continue to be big fans for as long as he keeps working. They could have never been particularly fond of Jeunet's whimsy via art direction fantasia and probably won't ever be for as long as he keeps working. And then there is the final option, that they could have been fans once upon a time, but by now feel he has lost the fire. I suspected I was all set to fall into the third camp before seeing his latest French quirk-fest, Micmacs; I couldn't have been more wrong.

Micmacs, Jeunet's first film since the uncharacteristically dramatic A Very Long Engagement in 2004, is not going to create any Jean-Pierre converts, but for this longtime fan of the director it was a delightful and pleasing jolt of energy. I thought for sure that this man's penchant for extreme distorted goggle closeups, beaucoup oddities and surreal touches of absurdity would have worn thin by now as even he himself seemed to have tired of it during Engagement, a movie that was aimed squarely at the American awards market. What I found instead with Micmacs was a film that did indeed live up to its French title of "non-stop madness" and proves to be a truly joyful and triumphantly jubilant experience.

Billed as a satire of the world arms trade, Micmacs stars Dany Boon as Bazil, a man who loses his job and apartment when he spends a lengthy stay in a hospital after being shot in the head. That we see his father killed by a landmine in the opening scene and it doesn't take long to realise he has some bad luck. However, he soon ends up in the company of an underground team of social outcasts who live in a cave made from scrap metal and appliances. It's not too long before the group, which includes Jeunet regulars such as Dominique Pinon and Yolande Moreau, come together to help Bazil reap his madcap revenge upon the landmine manufacturers responsible for his father's death and the ammunition corporation responsible for the bullet lodged in his head.

What follows is an increasingly elaborate, excitingly eccentric and hilariously entertaining series of events as this group of misfits band together on one nasty, yet startlingly original, trick after another. There's really no way to truly explain how giddy Micmacs made me with its sheer imagination. Filled to the brim with typical Jeunet novelties like Aline Bonetto's wacky art direction - long gone is Jeunet's former collaborator Marc Caro, but his influence remains - the kooky cinematography by Tetsuo Nagata as well as any number of singular quirks. How about the appearance of billboards throughout Micmacs advertising the very movie that we are watching? How about the alien-like sign language that character seem fluent in. The black and white film credits featuring music by Max Steiner or a scene involving an orchestra that would feel cynical in the arms of another director.

Comedies in a foreign language can be tricky for audiences since so much of what one nationality may find uproarious can be anything but to another. Micmacs successfully avoids this trap and proves to be a winning bout of absurdist fun. It's a true joy to watch the imagination found within the screenplay by Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant unfold. While I am sure that Jeunet's detractors will continue to be bitten by the grouch bug, there's no reason for everyone else to not go out and revel in the fun that is to be had. Micmacs is a treat! A-

1 comment:

Simon said...

I've been waiting to see this movie forever. Glad it doesn't suck.