Micmacs starts very sombrely; a soldier crouching over a landmine, gingerly sweeping the dirt off its surface amongst the cruel barenness of the desert. The camera cuts to a longshot and the mine suddenly explodes in the soldiers face throwing him high into the air. This sounds like a step into darker themes for Jean Pierre Jeunet, the man who gave us the surreal brilliance of Delicatessen and the anarchic spirit of Amelie.
But we are soon back to familiar territory as we introduced to the unfortunate soldier’s young son Bazil. A brief montage then depicts our protagonist’s childhood who appears to have adopted the misfortune of his father. Bazil accidently ends up with a bullet lodged in his brain, removing it might make him a vegetable and so the surgeons leave it in though he now carries the risk of dropping dead at any minute. Ending up on the streets after losing his job and apartment he is eventually adopted by a motley collection of characters who live on a scrap heap headed by the matriarchal figure ‘Mama Chow’. One day, whilst searching for useful junk Bazil chances upon the two arms manufacturers who have caused him so much misery and with his new friends he plots his revenge.
French comedian Danny Boon handles the lead role delicately, infusing the character with gentle touches of physical comedy with the deadpan mannerisms of Keaton and Chaplain. The film is essentially an ensemble piece and the family of second-hand dealers that Bazil joins is full of wacky personalities for the audience to laugh with, cringe at and admire. Most memorable of these characters is Remington (Omar Sy), displaced from his homeland in the Congo and constantly reciting proverbs and other words of wisdom, his impersonation of a Nigerian gangster is very amusing.
Of course a Jeunet film would not be complete without Dominique Pinon who easily slips into the role of the indestructible Buster, keen to please but slightly creepy. With names like Slammer, Calculator, Tiny Pete and Elastic Girl you can imagine that the rest of the gang are of a similar zany standard.
The film looks fantastic, combining the run down, antique-style aesthetics of Delicatessen with the classic architecture of Paris most lovingly shot in Amelie. Micmacs is _Delicatessen_’s spiritual successor and there is even a cheeky reference slipped in at one point.
The most novel aspect of Micmacs is that the characters appear to aware that their existence is a fabrication, the soundtrack is perceived by Bazil as the perfect accompaniment to his current predicament such as a full orchestra playing a crescendo to a dramatic moment. The film’s publicity posters are even prominently displayed on various billboards during the film.
The plot is basically a heist movie in disguise but instead of lengthy explanations of the gang’s schemes we are left to follow their activities and for large part of the film you are left in amazement trying to understand what just happened. The story progresses like clockwork, every device clicking into place throwing twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.
This only possible with the steady hand of Jean Pierre Jeunet on the pacing and smooth transitions betweens scenes so the film never looks like a series of set pieces randomly sewn together. The climax is wonderful example of a how a yellow-tinted lens can make a big difference which will leave your jaws hanging.
The script is very strong too, a romantic subplot between Bazil and Elastic Girl is eloquently presented and the film’s villains compare themselves to Rimbaud (who apperently was a gun runner). With a great script, cast and direction Micmacs should be a classic, but it isn’t. The originality which made Amelie and Delicatessen so unique has now faded into Deja Vu. I hate to say it but at times Micmacs felt a little sterile, as if the creativity had been forced into the film. Overall though, it is a highly enjoyable film and definately another hit for Jeunet showcasing the extensive talent this French director has.