Monday, 30 August 2010

French MicsMacster ReMixd

aka Micmacs à tire-larigot
2009 France
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
E1 Entertainment DVD Region 2

I’ve always liked Jeunet’s films, right from the moment I saw his first feature, Delicatessen, made in collaboration with Marc Caro. I remember I was a student and I’d just been to see Merci La Vie at my favourite cinema, the Lumiere in London (now deceased) and had been totally blown away by it. A day or two later I saw Delicatessen at, I think, the Curzon Soho (as it’s called now) and thought it was a pretty cool film, even when compared to Merci La Vie (which was one of the coolest movies ever made in my book).

Jeanet’s MicMacs carries on the very strong signature style of the director with it’s rich and vibrant colour scape (this time he is back to doing his Amelie style reds and greens for a lot of the shots) and his lingering on inventive and creative mechanical processes which seem to be one of his prime obsessions... some of his style even made it into his strictly American film Alien Resurrection (the fourth in the Alien franchise.... everyone seems to forget about Jeunet’s involvement with it these days but he even got Dominique Pinon in it again... reuniting him with his costar from The City of Lost Children, Ron Perlman). And talking of Dominique Pinon, he gets two roles in this movie. One as a human cannonball and a cameo where he is reprising his role as the hero of Delicatessen... but don't ask me how those timelines match up.

MicMacs tells the story, in it’s own good time and with a whole host of atypical comic diversions, of Bazil played by Dany Boon who Jeunet seems to be treating as a modern day Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin in this movie... perhaps that’s about right because a quick trawl of the internet tells me that he’s a famous comedian in France. Bazil’s father was blown up by a landmine made by one arms manufacturing company and, later (but still within the pre-credit sequence of the film), Bazil is accidentally shot in the head with a bullet made by another arms dealer... the result of which is that he loses his job at a video store were he used to spend his time watching old film noir classics like The Big Sleep (the soundtrack to this movie is half permeated with old Max Steiner cues) and after spending a couple of months homeless and Chaplinesque, he is adopted by a “family” or gang of people who live in a tyre yard and who are all as eccentric as himself. Plans of revenge hatch in his bullet penetrated mind... but knowing Jeunet as you do, you know it is going to be an Amelie-like revenge and not some brutal and cold revenge like another writer/director may inflict on his audience.

My one slight grumble is the directors re-exploration, in a more dumbed down form, of that brilliant sound trick he invented in Amelie where different letters are read with different sound atmosphere effects in the background, and when a new hybrid letter is created from these and read back, he plays the various soundscapes as they match back against the relevant words or phrase. A similar sound device is used in the duping of the two arms dealers to make them think they have ben on a long trek halfway around the world... the reveal of this device of others things like vacuum cleaners standing in for plane engines seems to me to just be a comment on the foley of a movie anyway and would have been exactly how Jeunet did it in Amelie. Why reiterate the technique here when the audience is already smart enough to know how these things are done? It just made the punchline of the movie seem a bit anticlimactic to me.

Still, it’s a minor criticism... the denouement of a movie, does not a movie make (although some people would vehemently disagree with me I know). I didn’t enjoy MicMacs half as much as his last two movies, Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, but that’s not saying much when this director’s movies are just so good... it’s still a joy to watch and a movie I would recommend without qualification.


  1. Spot-on review! This is a very sweet, funny, and visually-striking film but it just doesn't stack up against his earlier films. I think the story is weaker and it doesn't feel as fresh as something like Amelie or Delicatessen.

    Also, side note: I actually really liked Alien: Resurrection. Jeunet did a great job considering he didn't really speak English at the time. And I loved the inclusion of Perlman and Pinon! Plus Joss Whedon worked on the script for that. It's a surprising mixture of talents, I guess.

  2. Oh, hi there. Thanks so much for the kind words. Didn't know about the Joss Whedon thing so that's interesting. I liked Alien:Resurrection too. The only one of his which I had real problems with was his The City of Lost Children... but I haven't seen it since I saw it at the cinema so maybe I'd warm up to it if I watched it again. I should grab the DVD sometime soon and rewatch.