Wednesday, June 2, 2010



MICMACS, Jean Pierre Jeunet’s latest, brings all of his various traits of directorial quirkiness (witnessed in DELICATESSEN, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, ALIEN RESURRECTION and AMELIE) into one film. MICMACS is an ensemble piece that is built around one of the most whimsical revenge stories I have ever witnessed. In the hands of almost any other director, this film would have wilted and crashed with such a stripped down, simple plot. But under the creative mastery of Jeunet, MICMACS is one of the most visually compelling and entertaining films out right now.

The film literally drops the viewer in the Sahara desert in its first frames where a man is killed by a land mine. The rest of the film belongs to that man’s son, Bazil (played as an adult by Dany Boon). Bazil is young when his father dies and is a problem at his local catholic school. He does manage to grow up, secure a job at a video store, and whittle away his long work hours mouthing the words of a French-dubbed Humphrey Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP back at a television screen. This existence is cut short by a stray bullet to the head. Bazil survives; however he is now slightly off socially and has a massive scar across his forehead. Consequently, he loses his life as he knew it. Now homeless and jobless, he has to start over.

Through a series of surreal coincidences, Bazil learns of both the company that made the landmine that killed his father and the company that made the bullet lodged in his skull. As MICMACS’ coincidence meter continues to fly off of the chart, it is revealed that both of these armories are across the street from each other. Furthermore, the CEOs of each company, DeFenoullet (Andre Dussollier) and Marconi (Nicolas Marie) hate each other.

Bazil meets and moves in with a group of creative misfits that live in a secret junkyard hideout and proceeds to plot his master plan of vengeance. Functioning much like a comic book team of superheros, Bazil enlists his new group of friends in his revenge plot, and they are just as quirky as the tenants in DELICATESSEN or the characters in CITY OF LOST CHILDREN. There is Fracasse the human cannonball (Dominique Pinon – a Jeunet regular). There is also a cute, skirted, bespectacled numerical fact spewer named “The Calculator” (Marie-Julie Braup). The Gepetto of the bunch is Petit Pierre (Michel Cremades) who makes toys and crude, cartoonish robots. The Contortionist (Julie Ferrier) likes to fold herself into refrigerators and boxes while flirting with Bazil. Remington (Omar Sy) is the resident writer with one too many flowery words to say. The group is rounded out by a matron and a patron: Placard (Jean Pierre Marielle) and Tambouille (Yolande Moreau). With bizarre yoga, strange measurements, and a constant reminder that all equipment that is ever used is recycled, this group of eccentrically superpowered vagabonds pulls MICMACS together to achieve a coherence that a lot of bona-fide comic book movies (like THE LOSERS) fail to achieve.

It is apparent that Bazil’s gang genuinely cares for each other. It is also apparent that if they are going up against arms manufacturers that there will be a heavy dose of explosions and bullets (showing that Jeunet’s lackluster ALIEN RESURRECTION time actually paid off). MICMACS doesn’t disappoint.

In traditional Jeunet style, the camera pans from crazy, unpredictable positions before landing to take in standard shots of scenery. Some of the most random concepts that dance across the screen are merely a part of the way the world of MICMACS works. Examples of this are the different barbaric ways rich people clean and consume prawns, Bazil’s recital of odd facts to stop his panic attacks (accompanied with animated SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK type cartoons), and Winston Churchill’s fingernail clippings. Some pretty solid CGI is used to accentuate various scenes, but it doesn’t overwhelm. MICMACS manages to convey a cluttered, surreal world without the busy visual detritus that Gilliam used to convey THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS. The feeling is similar, but Jeneut doesn’t rely on the fantastic quite as hard. MICMACS takes reality and bends it to that point just before the breaking. The world he presents is almost possible. MICMACS fits everything strange and normal together with an unnatural seamlessness that pushes the story along flawlessly.

MICMACS is a live wire of a film. It is French with English subtitles, so read fast or you will miss the onscreen magic. It never strays from its original revenge-based plot, and it explains all of its rapid-fire plot developments, occasionally rewinding the clock and representing scenes with the key missed details. It is entertaining, fun, and raw. This film is a hot-dogging showcase of Jean Pierre Jeunet at the top of his game.

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