Micmacs à tire-larigot
“Micmacs” is a landmark film for Jean-Pierre Jeunet but not necessarily in a positive way. His previous two movies received a lot of attention, getting nominated for awards and earning positive reviews all over the world. “Amelie,” and “A Very Long Engagement” to a lesser degree, were break-out French films, connecting with English speaking audiences. “Micmacs” - shortened from the French title of “Micmacs a tire-larigot” - was none of those things. The reviews were positive but not overwhelmingly so. The film came and went from theaters without much attention. “Micmacs” is a movie that just kind of disappeared. Let's try and figured out why.
As a child, Bazil's father was killed while attempting to deactivate a landmine. As an adult, he lives a peaceful existence as a video store clerk. This is interrupted when a robbery goes wrong outside, leaving a bullet embedded in Bazil's head. Upon awakening, he looses his job and ends up on the streets. Soon, he meets up with a group of eccentrics, a family of quirky individuals living in a junk yard. After discovering the arms dealing company that made the bullet in his head and the mine that killed his father, Bazil devises a scheme of revenge against the weapons manufacturers.
“Micmacs” has an unlikely one-sentence summary. This is a whimsical comedy about the arms trade. That one line might make you expect a biting satire about the corporations and millionaires who profit off the death and destruction caused by guns and bombs. Considering the director doesn't usually approach political subjects, it might not be surprising to read that “Micmacs” isn't exactly a cutting edge satire. Instead, it essentially exports the wacky, humorous stylings the director displayed in “Delicatessen” and “Amelie,” using it to comment on a very serious real world issue.
“Micmacs” also presents an opportunity for Jeunet to indulge his love of surreal set pieces. Since Bazil has a bullet lodged in his brain, he's prone to elaborate hallucinations. After discovering the office building of the weapons manufacturer, Bazil imagines a whole orchestra playing behind him. After awakening in a car, he has a dream about a soccer field exploding with landmines. When certain of his death, Bazil thinks about the unlikely demises of various historical figures, which is presented as a demented cartoon. Even when not hallucinating, Bazil is a quirky character. Such as the clownish acts he performs on the street as a beggar. Dany Boon's game performance helps sell the character's comically fragmented state of mind.
A quirky love story has also, over the years, emerged as a trademark of Jeunet. “Micmacs” naturally features one too. Of all the friends Bazil make after moving into the junk yard, one in particular catches his attention. The character is only known as the Elastic Girl. A contortionist, she's introduced by unfolding herself out of a refrigerator. Throughout the film, she curls up inside a number of unlikely places: Shipping boxes, cabinets, closets, under blankets. She bickers with Bazil in a way that suggests mutual interest. Before the end, she outright declares her feelings for him, Bazil going along with it. It's not as well realized or touching as the love stories in “Delicatessen,” “Amelie,” or “A Very Long Engagement” but it's still pretty cute. Julie Ferrier is clearly the stand-out performer of the film, bringing a striking screen presence to the part.
“Micmacs” comes dangerously close to defining its cast members as nothing but quirks. Luckily, a talented cast makes them more detailed. Dominique Pinon, in his required appearance, plays Buster. A former human cannonball, Buster is adamant about breaking new records concerning distance and speed. Pinon brings the same likable clownish energy to the part that we've come to expect from him. Michel Crémadès plays Tiny Pete, a highly Jeunet-esque character who makes clockwork inventions out of trash. Such as walking tables or robotic strongmen. Omar Sy is very funny as Remington, a writer who constantly speaks in highly dramatic narration. My favorite of “Micmacs'” quirky family is Marie–Julie Baup as the Calculator, an eccentric girl who can intuitively measure anything. Baup has a twitchy energy that I like.
While Jeunet has frequently peppered his films with homages to silent cinema, “Micmacs” is one of the first times he's explicitly homaged another movie. During Bazil's last night in the video store, he watches a French dubbed tape of “The Big Sleep.” The opening credits that follow are done in the style of a 1940s movie. While “Micmacs'” plot is not quite as convoluted as a Raymond Chandler adaptation, it does feature instigators brewing trouble for bad men in high places. Later in the film, several scenes are set in the kind of wide, desert vistas that bring spaghetti westerns to mind. From this angle, “Micmacs” reminds me of “A Fistful of Dollars,” about an outsider playing two enemies against each other. Either way, it's clear that Jeunet had other films on his mind while making this one.
a human cannon ball. But a malfunction happens, sending him wildly off course. That scene represents “Micmacs” at its silliest but even gags that big don't feel out of place.
And what of the bad guys at the center of “Micmacs,” the men who happily make themselves rich supplying weapons to war zones? Nicolas Marie plays Francois Marconi, a CEO who likes to compare himself to poets. He lives in a penthouse suit and constantly belittles everyone around him, even his young son. Marie has fun playing the part as an utterly smug bastard, the kind of character you anticipating getting his just desserts. Across the street is the rival CEO, Andre Dussollier's Nicholas De Fenouillet. Where Marconi is smug, DeFenouillet is odd. He collects the body parts of famous people, reveling in his wealth. Both actors excel in their parts, creating adversaries you can root against.
As I said, “Micmacs” is mostly too silly to be accepted as a statement about arms dealing. Except for that climatic scene. The arms dealers are kidnapped and dropped into a desert zone. Stack atop each other, they are marched through a valley littered with landmines. Near-by, women in burkas watch, while holding pictures of children missing limbs. Under pressure, the arms dealers confess to all the terrorists and criminals they've sold their guns and bombs to. In one moment, the film brings the effects the sale of implements of death have on innocent people, an effective sequence. The tone then ricochets back around to silly and comedic, in a reveal too satisfying to discuss here.