Micmacs (Micmacs à tire-larigot) Reviews
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who is probably most famous in the States for Amelie, has a few signatures that you can see in every one of his films. First, each character is almost always given an extensive backstory so that there are never minor characters just like, in life, there are never minor people. Second, the characters and situations are usually remarkably inventive and cleverly constructed. In Micmacs he's one for two. The main character is given five minutes of backstory, and his team of cohorts are given almost none, but the ploys they devise to catch the arms dealers are almost always delightfully carried. Watching a Jeunet character solve a problem is almost like watching a good magician.
Other critics have discussed the political message embedded in the film. One positive review, by Ty Burr, states, "Micmacs is the equivalent of a circus troupe setting up a tent in a war zone: You're entertained, even delighted, but after a while you suspect there are more serious matters at hand," but a negative review calls it "shallow." I saw the politics as tangential to the central, character-driven concern, and though I sympathize with both of those points, it didn't ruin the film for me by either bogging me down with a message or having the message so separate from the plot that the final moment seems like a departure.
Dominique Pinon is remarkable, a effervescent character actor, but the lead, Dany Boon, plays Bazil too cluelessly. Bazil doesn't seem like a clever guy when we first meet him, so when the plot makes his character perform clever ploys, it seems strange.
Overall, Micmacs is bound to be a disappointment for Jeunet fans, but it is nonetheless a solid, entertaining spectacle.
The result plays out like Amélie's little life-improving schemes, albeit with a revenge motive and a team of conspirators. Lacking the vast resources of their quarry, Bazil and Co. prove to be genius improvisers - in one case performing a heist with a household alarm clock, a human cannonball and a gold fish bowl full of wasps. It's impressively inventive and entertainingly convoluted stuff.
But while virtually every frame creaks with inspiration, you can't help but come away feeling there's something missing. Perhaps it's to do with being so conditioned to expect a pay-off for every set-up. The extensive film-referencing comes, to a great degree, out of the fact that the pre-brainwound Bazil is a movie nut.
A more significant issue is Bazil himself. Whereas Amélie had at its heart a lovable, luminous brunette imp, here we have a large, blank-faced man of few words. And he's nowhere near as engaging. Dany Boon is a big deal in his homeland, but his appeal is yet to travel. We get that Bazil is shellshocked, but it does rather seem like Boon's coasting or, at least, failing to find the heart of his character while he's too busy playing on the surface. You may not be surprised to find that Boon started out as a mime.
Also, why are all of his films so fucking yellow?
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Summary: French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet takes a satirical look at the global arms trade with this foreign-language comedy starring Dany Boon as Bazil, who rallies his friends to take down weapons manufacturers responsible for his father's death. Bazil also discovers a dump into an underground haven for cool tools and sculptures crafted from discarded junk.
My Thoughts: "This was my first time seeing a film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and I am impressed enough to want to see more from him. Very creative characters. A great group of odd misfits. Their lovable and quirky, every one of them. I loved all the creations by Tiny Pete.The film is visually artistic. It is fun and will make you for sure laugh. A charming film I think anyone will enjoy."
Bazil (Dany Boon) is film buff who luckily works as a video store clerk. Unluckily though, he witnesses a shooting one evening which leaves him with a stray bullet lodged in his head. After surviving the incident and learning that the symbol on the bullet is also the same symbol that was on the landmine that killed his father years ago, he sets about to bring down the arms dealers responsible and enlists the help of a group of former circus performers, inventors and all round social misfits to aide his revenge.
Jeunet's usual visual flair and eccentric oddball characters are ever present as is, his knack for finding art in the every-day. There are very few directors working today with the vision and inventiveness that Juenet consistantly shows (the Coens being notable others). As close as your likely to get to a live-action cartoon, ranging from human cannonballs to a bowl full of wasps dangling precariously above it's target with an alarm clock ticking, waiting to send it on it's way. Very inventive and creative throughout but it suffers from being poorly paced and not entirely keeping you engaged and as Juenet would like to claim that it's a mix of both "Delicatessen" and "Amelie", it unfortunately lacks the surreal darkness of the former and the beauty and charm of the latter. However, if you view this on it's own merit, without comparison, you may well be less critical, as it's still a fine addition to Juenet's wonderful work and a very enjoyable and entertaining watch.
I wish there were real Micmacs (not the tribe of native americans, because we already have those) doing good things in the world by getting the "bad" guys. I just loved this movie so so so much.
Bazil (Danny Boon) is a bit down on his luck. A landmine killed his father when Bazil was a child. He drifted through life, got a job at a video store, and then got a bullet in his brain thanks to a drive-by shootout. The doctors decided to leave the stray bullet inside or else Bazil will become catatonic. Bazil eventually is adopted by a batch of homeless misfits living in a junkyard. They accept Bazil and encourage him to seek vengeance against the warring arms dealers responsible for the land mind and stray bullet. Bazil and his colorful new family plot to antagonize the arms company CEOs. They come up with crazy schemes to then frame on the rival CEOs to escalate tensions. Bazil and crew intend to expose these men and their corporate crimes to the world.
Micmacs succeeds where Rian Johnson's Brother's Bloom dangerously came close, and by that I mean that Micmacs overdoses on whimsy and I pronounced it clinically dead about an hour in. It's too much; it's just too much. Jeunet has always created movies that existed in rich, idiosyncratic worlds but those worlds always felt lush and lively and bursting with wonder. What saves a movie from whimsy is an emotional connection to the proceedings. 2001's Amelie is a perfect example of cinematic "magic realism" but it's also a moving and emotionally rewarding love story that transcends the plucky heroine. 2004's A Very Long Engagement was a rapturous, old-fashioned love story with flights of fancy. Now, after a long six-year absence, Jeunet seems to have lost touch with the heart. There is no real emotional entry point for Micmacs. The protagonist is pretty much a blank. Yeah, you want him to get justice and you pull for the underdogs, but at no point did I care whatsoever for any character. Most of the junkyard characters are just ideas, walking-talking heist components (the human cannonball, the girl whose brain is good at math, the toy maker). Several characters barely exist except for their specific roles in Bazil's schemes. There's a romantic angle with the female contortionist (Julie Ferrier) and Bazil, but that comes off as less a function of the narrative and more of a desperate "Well, who else is gonna get together?" necessity. Jeunet has put together a movie that is all surface and no polish. Sure, the movie is intermittently entertaining and has plenty of imagination, but Micmacs is without a doubt the least involving and least accomplished film from a man responsible for a fantastic output.
The tone of the film seems to hew to something like a silent movie, which might explain why all the older members in my audience were constantly giggling while I just occasionally snickered under my breath. The comedy never rises above the chuckle level. There's plenty of controlled wackiness, nothing gets too out of hand or edgy despite the fact that the plot revolves around getting vengeance on arms dealers. I was expecting something a little darker than the cutesy oddballs that I got. The best and darkest moment in the film is when we see that one of the arms dealers collects body parts of dead celebrities (Marilyn Monroe's molar, Mussolini's eyeball). It's an interesting quirk that actually reveals something about the dark heart of the antagonist. There should be more moments like this. The bullet in Bazil's brain is barely referenced. I have no issues with whimsy when it doesn't overwhelm the narrative, and that's the problem with Micmacs. The story is merely the vehicle for the inventive hijinks. The story is suffocated by whimsy and visual energy, therefore there's no room for character development. All that inventiveness takes center stage. If playfulness is all you seek in a movie, then Micmacs will likely satisfy. Jeunet still makes movies that nobody else does, but he's fallen fall short of his own lofty standards.
The movie moves along so quickly that it seems like every character just naturally intuits what must be done next, like they all have the screenplay in hand just off camera. Bazil is so quickly adopted by the junkyard gang. He so quickly discovers who is responsible for his life's troubles. The schemes are so quickly thrown together. They aren't even that complicated, mostly distracting and framing. The movie just feels like a spinning plate that has to keep moving or else everything will just break. I suppose Jeunet and his longtime co-writing collaborator Guillaume Laurant are trying to keep things busy so people won't notice that they don't genuinely care what happens.
This being a Jeunet film, of course it's spectacular from a technical standpoint. Every frame of a Jeunet film can be used as a mural. His compositions delight the eye and the colorful cinematography by Tetsuo Negata (Splice) makes Paris seem like a dream city. The production design looks like it was taken directly from the Steampunk Architectural Digest magazine. You'll never have to worry about the visual aesthetics or ingenuity of a Jeunet film. But there are plenty of artists that can master technical craft (you can find them in the world of commercials) but it takes something much more to marry technical precision in the service story and character. Micmacs is a strange film not because of plot, character, tone, or energy, but because Jeunet spent six years in absence and returned with a film that's got plenty of style but no heart inside all that artifice.
Nate's Grade: B-
The main character is an impoverished sad sack who almost never speaks. The character appears to have been modeled on Charlie Chaplin's Tramp. But Jeunet captures only the look of the Tramp, not the deep heart of the character.
In "Micmacs," Jeunet many times displays openly a great love for classic American movies. There is one sweet sequence, for example, where the sad sack perfectly lip synchs every line of dialogue while watching an old Humphrey Bogart movie on DVD. But Jeunet here demonstrates little understanding that an essential part of what made these movies work so well was the story. The best Bogart movies didn't just look great!
The sad sack, played affectingly but superficially by Dany Boon (yes, he spells it with one N), has an animus against arms manufacturers for reasons I won't reveal. So when he (ludicrously) stumbles on a murder attempt by arms manufacturers, he seeks to take them down. He falls in with a quirky group of misfits who appear to be refugees from a traveling circus, and they become his misfit army.
The only folks I could see getting substantial pleasure out of "Micmacs" are those with serious interest in art direction and set decoration. But even for them, their impulse will probably be to turn down the sound so as not to let the inane story take away from the visual pleasure. Crazy people such as myself who care about the stories in movies will no doubt be seriously disappointed by this film.
A funny thing happened. A few weeks ago I watched Yojimbo, the Kurosawa film about a samurai playing two rival gangs against each other. In this film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the lead character does a similar thing, playing two different people, who have effected his life for the worse, against each other. I think this is neat to point out, because it's somewhat of a peculiar coincidence, which is what most of Jeunet's films are based around anyway.
In this film, Dany Boon stars as Bazil. As a boy, his father was killed by a landmine. Years later, Bazil was working in a video store, only to observe a shooting that resulted in a bullet lodged in his head. While Bazil managed to survive, he unfortunately lost both his home and his job. With nowhere left to go, Bazil is adopted by a crew of unique people living in a junk yard, where they make a fine enough living for themselves. These people includes a contortionist, a human cannonball, an inventor, a master thief, and a human calculator, among others.
While Bazil may have some problems in his life, he does have a plan. The sources of both the death of his father and the bullet in his head are two weapons manufacturers that happen to have large buildings in France right across the street from each other. The two men who run these businesses are bitter rivals; and with the help of Bazil and his friends, there may be an end in sight for this rivalry.
Director Jeunet, who previously made Amelie, The City of Lost Children, and A Very Long Engagement, once again manages to show off his trademark visual senses. The way he uses effects is always a treat. A lot of great world creation is going on here and it all blends well with the quirky nature of the story and characters. Having things like a contortionist and a human cannonball all work there way into having neat payoffs; and it is all made better by wonderful cinematography.
The story manages to be a lot of fun. As I've said, it takes an old plot seen a few times in different films and treats it with a neat freshness, especially in the way it develops the villains and adds in the heist film aspect, as our heroes work to sabotage them.
The one fault I feel this film has, comes in the form of Bazil. While he is certainly endearing and we'd like to see him succeed, there is never much of a character developed for him, especially given that everyone around him is much more interesting.
Still, the lesser aspects hardly pulled me out of the film, as the freshness portrayed here makes much of this film more worthwhile. Its a lot of fun, full of imagination, greatly made, and wonderful to look at.
Bazil: Mom always told me to avoid twisted girls.
As the story opens, Bazil (Dany Boon) is working in a video store when a stray bullet unluckily hits him in the forehead. Doctors decide the bullet's dangerous location prohibits its removal, so Bazil gingerly re-enters the world knowing the bullet could kill or incapacitate him if its position changes. Worse yet, he has lost his job and apartment while in the hospital.
After a brief time living on the streets, Bazil meets up with a vendor who takes him to a bizarre junkyard compound where a nest of outsider characters toils in seclusion. Each of them has some specialized talent, whether it's being a human cannonball, having inexplicable strength, being able to build robots out of trash or calculating precise measurements at a glance. Most interesting of all is a wide-eyed contortionist (Julie Ferrier) whose feats of flexibility are a delight.
Ah, but Jeunet has yet to find himself a plot. Not surprisingly, his solution is rather far-fetched: Bazil's medical predicament (along with a father who was killed by a land mine) leads him to hatch a scheme to take down two rival munitions factories and their corrupt, pompous figureheads. His new friends contribute their unique skills to the plan. Of course, attention to detail is the engine of any good caper film, and "Micmacs" carries this to an absurd extreme.
Jeunet's usual gallery of oddball faces (including the inevitable Dominique Pinon) is here, and the intricate decor of the junkyard set is astounding. Once again crafting a tight color scheme of earthy golden-browns, Jeunet micromanages his films' composition to a degree that few other directors could even imagine. If the whimsy of the story makes you roll your eyes, the visual treats alone will keep you watching.