Thursday, May 6, 2010

IFF BOSTON: Micmacs à Tire-larigot (Micmacs) (2009)

This review is part of my coverage of the Independent Film Festival of Boston 2010. (official site)

Oh dear. My friends, I'm afraid our IFF Boston times have come to an end. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's newest film Micmacs was the last film screened at the festival, replacing James Franco's Saturday Night (a decision I was pretty happy about). The event took place at the lovely Coolidge Corner Theatre, and was preceded by entertaining closing remarks from the delightful main staff along with tons of free stuff thrown into the audience (I got a t-shirt and some fruit tea!). After seeing those by-now quite familiar Ford and JetBlue ads one last time, Micmacs could begin. Once again Jeunet effortlessly slips his audience into an anachronistic, slightly off-color world with wacky characters and ingenious devices, and this time he even manages to work in some anti-war (or at least, anti-weapons) statements.

When video store clerk Bazil (Danny Boon) receives a stray bullet to the head, doctors decide that removing it could be more dangerous than letting it stay lodged in his skull. Upon release from the hospital he finds he's lost his apartment and his job, and lives day-to-day on the streets of Paris with the knowledge that he could die any moment if the bullet sinks further. He joins a rag-tag group of outcasts living beneath a city dump, all of whom have special talents they use toward re-purposing found objects into new creations. There's Fracasse (Dominique Pinon), a former human cannonball, La Môme Caoutchouc (Julie Ferrier), a contortionist (I believe her name translates to "the rubber girl", Tambouille (Yolande Moreau), who acts as a surrogate mother to them all, and several others. When Bazil discovers that the manufacturers of his bullet and of the mine that killed his father are from local competing weapons companies, he enlists his new friends to start a large-scale prank war that will take down both of the corrupt CEOs.

In my experience, Jeunet's strengths have always resided in his fantastic visual aesthetic and dedication to interesting characters, but not necessarily effective storytelling. I'm not saying I don't like the plots of his films, just that generally they aren't the strongest points. With Micmacs this characteristic is applied, as the story is interesting but a little confusingly structured and under-developed. It takes a while to really come together, with several curt scenes following one right after the other until the fun really starts with Bazil joining the energetic trash heap crew. Once everything gets going, the movie becomes a very enjoyable and unpredictable comedy complete with goofy disguises, high-concept stratagems, and plenty of breaking and entering.

The characters are fun and detailed- quirky but not in an annoying "indie-cliche" way. They all have their own talents and interests that lend them their nicknames, and I really enjoy schemes that involve everyone working together and putting their specific skills to use in unexpected ways. The cast is excellent, and everyone imbues his or her personage with emotion and a good dose of silliness. I loved Dany Boon's sort of hapless confusion coupled with a go-to spirit, and of course Dominique Pinon always stands out in anything. Omar Sy has some of the best comedic moments as Remington, a wannabe anthropologist obsessed with idioms. Julie Ferrer shines as the outspoken contortionist, and both Nicolas Marié and André Dussollier put in delightfully devious turns as the villainous CEOS.

While clearly Micmacs is character-heavy, the ensemble works so well together that no one is lost in the shuffle, and the focus remains on Bazil to ground the story. The script is funny and light-hearted but not fluffy, and of course the visuals are breathtaking. It's filmed in slight sepia hues with an array of innovative gadgets and home-made clothes, and everything has a very homey, lived-in feel. I loved the slightly surrealistic, kooky atmosphere and the characters are instantly lovable. It's a very cute, engaging movie, but not quite as heartfelt as Amelie or groundbreaking as City of Lost Children.


Further Reading:
Micmacs trailer
Micmacs official site

PS This review is also published in slightly different form at 366 Weird Movies.


  1. Oh, I want to see this so bad! I'm losing my shit, seriously. Why do you have to rub my face in it? Review a really shitty movie or something!

  2. Simon: Aw man I guess I haven't watched any really shitty movies lately. Damn! I'm pretty sure Micmacs is coming out at the end of May though, so hopefully you won't have to wait much longer!

  3. Good review. I would agree that it wasn't as heartfelt as Amelie but I couldn't say that it engaged me. I couldn't get past the fact that it just felt silly. I liked Amelie because it was quirky but believable, interesting character, doing good for other people. It seemed to mean more, so the story was charming and more memorable. Micmacs was funny at times but it didn't work for me, random characters, doing random things, didn't appeal to me.

  4. Very, very glad to hear that you enjoyed this flick, and that you had a good time at IFF Boston. (Film Fests are fun aren't they?). Given how much I think I'll be leaning on indie cinema this summer, I'm glad to know that one title will be well worth my while!

  5. Ronan: Yeah, it was rather silly, but I kind of liked that about it. It is sort of all over the place though, and I can see why you wouldn't like it. At least we'll always have Amelie!

    Hatter: Yeah it was a blast! Sounds like you've been having a fun (but slightly exhausting) time at Hot Docs!

  6. So now that I've seen it, I can say that I agree with this review whole heartedly.

    In a way, I'm happy that I didn't really recognize any of the French actors allowed me just to drown in this zany little world they created.