Sunday, February 28, 2010

Micmacs (Micmacs à tire-larigot) (2009)

It's fair to say that Micmacs ticks all the boxes for a Jeunet film: it is odd, it features Dominique Pinon, it is set in a Paris that only exists in the imagination, and it has a cartoon-like violence that won't make you squeamish. Having said all that, I felt that it was too ... sober.

Bazil (played by local star Dany Boon) miraculously survives a drive-by shooting with a bullet conveniently stuck in an inoperable part of his brain. Presumed dead, he loses his home, his clothes and his job. Working as a mime on the streets of Paris, he runs into a gang of scavenger misfits, Micmacs, and joins their family. Meanwhile, he plans on taking down two weapons manufacturers (one is responsible for the bullet in his brain, the other is responsible for the land-mine that killed his father in North Africa when Bazil was young) and the Micmacs gladly help him on his quest. From that moment on, it becomes a farcical Mission: Impossible.

It vaguely reminded me of Delicatessen (1991) and its underground vegetarian guerrilla fighters, but it lacks the critical "odd" gene that made Delicatessen such a treat. Micmacs is too aware of its oddness, but tries very hard to conceal it behind one-dimensional characters and a very linear, suspense-free plot. The scenes inside the Micmacs' lair are fantastic and I was hoping that we would remain there for the majority of the film, but Jeunet takes his camera to very uninspiring locations that the film ends up looking pretty bland - a shocker for Jeunet.

My other problem  was the "message": I am as anti-weapon as the next guy and I would love to see the arms manufacturers and dealers go down in shame. But, do we really need that message in a film like this? Is Micmacs supposed to be a political film? And, more crucially, is it an effective political film? No. This should not have been a political film and it is not effective in its delivery.

For those of who have seen the very long A Very Long Engagement (2005), you will remember how disappointing it was compared to Amelie - two mutually exclusive films that share so much in common on the surface there is no avoiding comparison. Micmacs also asks for a similar comparison with Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children (1995). Unfortunately for Micmacs and for Jeunet, his latest is a failure as a stand-alone piece as well. Despite the brilliant self-referencing billboards that appear throughout the film.

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