The new film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, of Delicatessen and Amelie fame, features quirky comedy, a plethora of weird characters and a political message. Through its comedic story, we are introduced to the homeless Bazil (Dany Boon), who takes revenge against two warring arms traders, both inadvertently responsible for his troubled existence. One produced the mine that killed his father; the other produced the bullet now lodged in Bazil’s brain. Assisting him in his seemingly futile mission is a diverse group of seven second-hand dealers, the “Micmacs”, each with a unique talent.
The strange plot could have made for a heavy-handed and annoying film, but Jeunet draws on all the right influences. Within the film, there is a very distinct feeling of the silent comedy, particularly the works of geniuses Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. The plot and some of the score recalls the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. An early scene in which Bazil stands between the two monolithic buildings of the arms dealers brings to mind A Fistful of Dollars. Most tangible, however, is the film’s link with 1940s American crime masterpiece The Big Sleep, both in its seemingly convoluted plot line and in its score (which borrows liberally from the earlier film). This is not to say that the film is a jumble of stolen ideas as Jeunet makes the film his own with his rich and unique style.
There is a real visual beauty in Micmacs, from the range of colours within each scene to the setting itself (a Paris that is far removed from the usual clichés). A visual treat, the film also displays some genuine wit, not just in the visual panache of its nods to silent film but also in its wordplay. The scrap-heap inventions that litter the home of the Micmacs are brilliantly realized and the quirky comedy that sees a security camera do a double take and an elderly couple argue about as dog raise some real laughs.
The characters are great fun, from the elderly yet Herculean Tiny Pete (Michel Cremades) to the evil arms dealers (brilliantly played by Andre Dussollier and Nicolas Marie) who vent their rage in increasingly hilarious ways without ever becoming caricatures. Bazil himself is a fantastic comedy invention with an unlimited range of gags. His schemes are all rich with ideas, particularly in an airport scene in which all the abilities of the Micmacs are utilized. His animated flights of fancy/ coping strategies are also great fun.
All in all, the film is a pleasant surprise with a resounding beauty and wit that makes it a rarity. It should secure a loyal following and is a film that will easily please a mass audience. It may make light of a serious issue, but it is much better than the turgid Nicolas Cage “expose” Lord of War and much more entertaining. See it and enjoy.