REVIEW: Micmacs à tire-larigot [Micmacs] [2009]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: R | Runtime: 105 minutes | Release Date: October 29th, 2009 (France)
Studio: Warner Bros. / Sony Pictures Classics
Director(s): Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Writer(s): Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Guillaume Laurant

“No, I am the vegetable crisper”

With a literal translation of ‘Non-stop Shenanigans”, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs à tire-larigot is definitely his return to high-style comedy and proof he may in fact belong in an insane asylum. His last film, A Very Long Engagement, was a fantastic wartime document shot in his signature aesthetic, but it’s subject matter brought it away from the more absurd surrealism we became used to with Amélie and Delicatessen. This isn’t to say Micmacs lacks a serious underlying story to the aforementioned steady stream of wackiness; the film ultimately shows itself to be a satire on international arms trade and the rich businessmen at home selling weaponry to third world nations, reaping the benefits of civil war and not caring about the consequences. Unfortunately, for Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (André Dussollier) and François Marconi (Nicolas Marié), their military enterprises, conveniently located across the street from one another, become the target of one man’s mission to make the companies who sell guns responsible for their customers’ use.

Dany Boon’s Bazil not only loses his father at war when dismantling a landmine built by de Fenouillet, but also survives a gunshot wound to the head from a bullet manufactured by Marconi many years later. Whether it’s the metal slug lodged in his forehead—had they removed it, he’d have been a vegetable, though keeping it in meant he could convulse or die at any moment, (the doctor flipped a coin to decide which route to go)—or his simple mind in love with the movies—as evidenced by his lip-synching of The Big Sleep from his perch at the video store—Bazil concocts an insanely intricate plan to take these merchants of death down. Unable to do it alone, constantly having to smack his own head so not to wig out and drop unconscious from the bullet, he enlists the merry band of misfits who took him in once he realized his home and job were gone upon leaving the hospital. A mixture of street peddlers, crazies, freakshows, and inventors, the group willingly does what’s asked of them, a mutual revulsion for guns and bombs shared by all.

Jeunet definitely uses the movie as a showcase for his love of the cinema by paying homage whenever he can. Having his lead character be something of a cinephile makes it easy since he is the one orchestrating the elaborate plan. Instances of people mouthing the words of others, as everything Omar Sy’s Remington says is scripted, (when he speaks on his own, only nonsensical gibberish exists), occur often; the climatic sequence is a play on Once Upon a Time in the West as well as utilizes a Mission: Impossible type rewind reveal; and the director even pays respect to one of his own, showing Dominique Pinon playing a musical saw in a hotel room like he did in Delicatessen. Through all the winks, though, Micmacs is by far a uniquely interesting vision inhabited by eccentrics, each with a necessary skill to complete Bazil’s revenge. Pinon—in the film proper too—is a boisterous human cannonball with manic tendencies of over-exuberance; Jean-Pierre Marielle’s Placard (Closet) is a master of recycling objects and father figure of the group; Julie Ferrier’s La Môme Caoutchouc (Elastic Girl) is an extremely talented contortionist with leadership aspirations; and Michel Crémadès is Petit Pierre, an always smiling, always silent inventor of robotic wizardry you’d expect from a Jeunet work.

The fact these characters with skills that obviously didn’t help them succeed in the real world happen to find each other and then let Bazil join could be seen as lazy writing in any other film. What we get here, though, is a complete farcical tale of fun guerilla espionage to pit the two weapon magnates against each other, hoping they’ll ruin themselves without need for intervention on the part of the protagonists. Foreign rebel leaders are framed with drugs, apartment security guards are rendered useless by a well-placed sexual tryst in an open window across the street, and the clan acquires information by disguising themselves as window washers and even department store mannequins. Nothing is beyond Jeunet and co-writer Guillaume Laurant’s imagination and nothing is too far a leap for these washed up street people with the hearts and mentalities of children. I guess it all just goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind to, and if it worked in the movies, why not try the same yourself? If you have a mad inventor and a human pretzel willing to join the cause, anything is possible.

Besides the wonderfully zany cast, however, are really sumptuous visuals. Jeunet has never been one to shy away from gimmicks or hyper-reality and a character with brain woes like Bazil is perfect fodder for such tricks. Boon plays the role with a necessary look of confusion, quizzically going through his second chance at life with fantasies of orchestra’s playing at his back and dreaming up things we the audience get to see. The most normal of the bunch, he obviously gets frustrated by Remington’s disjointed verbal nonsense that risks derailing fake negotiations with his targets—Sy’s portrayal of the mad writer is a highlight—but is still lighthearted enough to make jokes and even break out into unintelligible Flemish, receiving Chinese back from Elastic Girl. Much like the steampunk-esque art design of City of Lost Children and Alien: Resurrected, Micmacs has a very cluttered aesthetic of dirty and dingy machinery and metal, just right for Petit Pierre’s need for electronic parts. What was my favorite bit of background detail? The numerous billboards throughout, not only with imagery from the film itself, but also the title font and name stamped on. Self-referential advertising? Only Jeunet.

[1] Left to Right: Dany Boon as Bazil, Marie-Julie Baup as Calculator, Omar Sy as Remington © 2008 – Bruno CALVO/ EPITHETE FILMS – TAPIOCA FILMS, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
[2] Dominique Pinon stars as Fracasse in Sony Pictures Classics’ Micmacs (2010)
[3] Julie Ferrier stars as La Mome Caoutchouc in Sony Pictures Classics’ Micmacs (2010)

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