Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and co-written with Guillaume Laurent, Micmacs is the story of a man who conspire with his friends to try and destroy two weapons manufacturers as an act of revenge. The film is a return to Jeunet’s more comedic style of filmmaking following the more dramatic epic of 2004‘s A Very Long Engagement. The film also serves as Jeunet’s response to the world of arms trades as he chooses to satirize the people who sells arms. Starring Dany Boon, Andre Dussollier, Omar Sy, Dominique Pinon, Julie Ferrier, Jean-Pierre Marielle, and Yolande Moreau. Micmacs is a witty yet whimsical film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
After being hit by a stray bullet, the life of Bazil (Dany Boon) goes into shambles with a bullet stuck on his head as he loses his home and his job as a video clerk. Unable to find work or a place to live, he meets an elderly man named Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle) who lives in a dump with other people. Among them is a contortionist named Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), a maternal cook named Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau), an ethnographer named Remington (Omar Sy), a young mathematical woman named Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup), a human cannonball named Buster (Dominique Pinon), and an inventor named Tiny Pete (Michele Cremades) who invent things from scraps from the dump.
When Bazil decides to pick up scraps for the people he’s living with, he stops to pick up a few things where he finds himself in the street where the buildings of two weapons manufacturers are. Realizing that one of them in Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet (Andre Dussollier) is the man who built the landmine that killed Bazil’s father 30 years ago while the other manufacturer across the street in Francois Marconi (Nicolas Marie), who created the stray bullet in his head. Bazil decides to create a plan to get back at both of them as he seeks out the help of everyone to create his plan. Staking out at their respective buildings, Bazil and the gang decide to create a scheme for the two manufacturers to fight each other by destroying whatever deals they have with an African dictator seeking arms.
With the plans becoming more elaborate and comical as de Fenouillet and Marconi starting to fight each other. Bazil starts to fall for Elastic Girl as they work out another plan where something goes wrong as men working for the African dictator break into Marconi’s apartment. With de Fenouillet and Marconi realizes what’s going on, it’s up to Bazil and the team to finally create another plan to nab both of them for their actions.
Throughout the world of arms trading, for the people who create the weapons. It’s all about the money but the real price is in the people who suffer in the hands of it. In this film, it’s about a man who is a victim in the hands of weapons who lost his father when he was just a boy and 30 years later, gets hit by a stray bullet that would affect his entire life. In his approach to revenge, killing these men wouldn’t solve anything so what he and a group of misfits do is essentially create a scheme where these two weapons manufacturers would fight each other and would pay dearly for the crimes they’ve committed against the human race.
What Jean-Pierre Jeunet and co-writer Guillaume Laurent is create a film that is more about giving these two weapons manufacturers their comeuppance through a series of hilarious schemes concocted by the film’s protagonist and his band of hooligans. Yet, the characters that help the protagonists are all outcasts who have suffered some form of loss or alienation as they all band together to fight against two men who have it all. The villains however, are just as interesting for the way they present themselves as well as the quirks they have. Marconi is a guy who has a young son, likes to compare himself to Arthur Rimbaud, and loves to collect vintage cars. In de Fenouillet is a guy who likes to collect body parts of famous people that include Winston Churchill’s fingernails, the heart of Louis XIV, and Marilyn Monroe’s tooth.
The script works because of the way the revenge scheme is planned as well as the motivations for the characters. The reason the people join Bazil is because it gives them a chance for them to do something with their skills in hopes to create a better world. Jeunet and Laurent also allow the film to be very funny for the way things are handled in the planning of these schemes while allow the time for a bit of romantic tension between Bazil and Elastic Girl. The overall script is definitely engaging for the way the revenge story is told through humor and bits of political satire.
Jeunet’s direction is marvelous for the way he creates the world that the characters live in as it’s all heightened and presented in a comical fashion. The cave-dump Bazil and his friends live in is a world unto its own where even though there’s not much. What they can use gives them enough reasons to live while using these pieces of scraps and decayed objects to help them fight against the weapons manufacturers. The objects that are created along with the presentations of the schemes gives Jeunet a lot to do with the compositions and camera movements to see how are things done. Particularly as he goes for some wide shots, close-ups, and lots of shots in the air to give it a worldly feel.
Since it’s shot partially in places in Paris and out of Paris, Jeunet creates dazzling compositions of the locations while avoiding landmarks that has been seen in previous films. He also goes for something that’s a bit more intimate and simple in the use of the locations while keeping the events in the film lively. The film also plays as a homage to other films such as the silent films of Charlie Chaplin, westerns, thrillers, and its opening credits is presented in an old-school style where the film starts off with a scene of Bazil as a kid and his old life as a video clerk as he watches Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep. It’s all told in a light-hearted approach without being too funny while the commentary on arms trades is presented in a lighter context though the message is out there but not in an overbearing manner. Overall, Jeunet creates a truly sensational yet entertaining film that is really a joy to watch.
Cinematographer Testuo Nagata does a great job with the film‘s colorful yet lush cinematography to exemplify the use of yellow, green, and orange for the scenes in sunny day Paris as well as some of the exteriors in the caves. Nagata also employs a more straightforward yet colorful look to other scenes to set a mood for the scene or to heighten it for humor or suspenseful moments. Editor Herve Schneid does an excellent job with the editing as it’s presented in a straight yet playful presentation with some jump-cuts and other rhythmic cutting style to play up the film’s suspense and humor.
Production designer Aline Bonetto does a fantastic job with the art direction including the creation of the cave, the buildings the manufacturers work at as well as their posh homes, and the objects that is created. Particularly the little robots and inventions that the Tiny Pete character creates that was built by sculptor Gilbert Pyre. Costume designer Madeline Fontaine does a wonderful job with the costumes by playing to the film‘s look including the clothes that Elastic Girl wear to more straightforward clothes that other characters wear. Sound editor Gerard Hardy does a superb job with the sound work to capture the intimate yet crazy world of the dump-cave and the city locations including the sounds of explosions in some of the action scenes of the film.
The film’s score by Raphael Beau is very good as it features some comical, light-hearted orchestral pieces as well as a few, suspenseful pieces that play throughout the film. Yet, the rest of the soundtrack comes from the music of Max Steiner which plays to some of the dramatic and romantic elements of the film in reference to The Big Sleep as the music is a highlight of the film’s technical work.
The casting by Pierre-Jacques Benichou, with additional work by Valerie Espagne, is brilliant as it features some notable appearances from Noe Boon as the young Bazil, Manon Le Moal as Bazil‘s video clerk replacement, and Lara Guirao as Bazil‘s mother that appears early in the film. Other notable performances in the roles of Bazil’s gang includes Michele Cremades as the quiet yet inventive Tiny Pete, Marie-Julie Baup as the statistics-talking yet charming Calculator, Omar Sy as the cliché-spouting yet kindly Remington, and Dominique Pinon as the brash human cannonball Buster as he also briefly plays the Louison character from Delicatessen in a small scene.
In the roles of the two antagonists, Andre Dussollier and Nicolas Marie are great in their respective roles as de Fenouillet and Marconi as they each bring a big yet funny approach to their characters as two men who become pawns of a scheme to destroy each other. Jean-Pierre Marielle and Yolande Moreau are excellent as the older members of the gang in their respective roles as the encouraging Slammer and the tough yet maternal Mama Chow. Julie Ferrier is wonderful as Elastic Girl, a contortionist whose talents helps Bazil in his plans while dealing with her own feelings towards him as Ferrier displays some great work in her physical flexibility. Finally, there’s Dany Boon in a fantastic performance as Bazil by showing being a calm yet comical guy who can do a bit of mime and be tough as he really brings a lot of charm and wit to his role.
Micmacs is a delightful and exhilarating film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet that features an outstanding phenomenal cast and Jeunet’s approach to bending genres. It is a film that has Jeunet taking on political themes with his own brand of humor as well as providing something that is entertaining without being too whimsical. It’s a film that fans of his work will definitely enjoy while showcasing that there’s more to him than being quirky or romantic. In the end, Micmacs is an amazing yet exciting film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and company.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet Films: Delicatessen - The City of Lost Children - Alien: Resurrection - Amelie - A Very Long Engagement - (The Young and Prodigious Spivet) - The Auteurs #20: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
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