Micmacs: movie review
Micmacs, a crazily inventive French film, has a freneticism that will eventually draw you in.
Bruno Calvo/Sony Pictures Classics/AP
The films of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet are so rabidly inventive that, if you waltz into them unawares, youâ€™re likely to feel poleaxed. Heâ€™s the French equivalent of Terry Gilliam, another filmmaker who always has to have eight things happening on the screen simultaneously â€“ and the more bizarre the better.
Jeunetâ€™s new film, â€śMicmacs,â€ť issues from the same perfervid mindscape that gave us â€śAmĂ©lie,â€ť â€śA Very Long Engagement,â€ť and (as codirector with Marc Caro), â€śDelicatessenâ€ť and â€śThe City of Lost Children.â€ť Itâ€™s a mindscape Iâ€™m of two minds about: I love all that invention but after a while it wears me down. Nonstop eccentricity takes its toll. Jeunetâ€™s movies make me long for a little normality.
Up until about the halfway point â€śMicmacsâ€ť wrung me out, but then it started to grow on me. Or maybe itâ€™s just that I adapted to the freneticism and decided, as a survival tactic, to go with the flow. Unlike most of Jeunetâ€™s other films, â€śMicmacsâ€ť has a cast of characters that is altogether appropriate to its helter-skelter stylistics.
Its central hero is Bazil (the popular French comic Dany Boon), who is hit in the head by a stray bullet while working the night shift in a video store while he is watching Humphrey Bogart in â€śThe Big Sleep.â€ť (By the way, what is it about the French and Bogart? Jean-Paul Belmondo in Godardâ€™s â€śBreathless,â€ť which is currently being given a theatrical revival, was also infatuated, and just about every French film noir is Bogart-haunted.)
With the bullet still lodged in his brain because doctors are afraid to operate, Bazil, who could keel over at any moment, retreats to a cardboard shantytown beside the Seine and teams with a ragtag bunch of like-minded misfits presided over by the dotingly off-center Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau, who was so extraordinary last year as the unbalanced artist in â€śSĂ©raphineâ€ť). Ex-con Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle) is a master lock-picker; the charmingly dweeby Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup) is a number-crunching whiz; Buster (scrunched-face Dominique Pinon) is like a one-man Guinness Book of World Records; Remington (Omar Sy) is named for his beloved typewriter. My favorite is Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), who can literally bend herself into a pretzel. Unless Iâ€™m missing something, Ferrier appears to be performing all her own pretzel-bending. Sheâ€™s so nimble she could check herself into her own carry-on luggage.
The mite of seriousness in this scenario is that Bazil, who had been orphaned as a boy when his father was killed by a roadside bomb, devises a way with his newfound buddies to strike back at the two leading French weapons manufacturers. (One of them, played by AndrĂ© Dussollier, has an aggrieved hauteur.) The teamâ€™s protracted payback is marvelously ingenious. Itâ€™s like watching the A-Team as re-imagined by Rube Goldberg, with a little Jacques Tati and Lewis Carroll thrown in.
The best part is that, amid all the hubbub, Jeunet, improbably and inevitably, draws out a love story between Bazil and Elastic Girl. Without it, â€śMicmacsâ€ť would have imploded. The romance, which is funny and sexy at the same time, anchors the shenanigans. Because she has a genius for contortionary calisthenics, Elastic Girl frets that Bazil will find her unfeminine. Itâ€™s an immensely satisfying moment when he finally realizes otherwise. Smart man. Grade: B+ (Rated R for some sexuality and brief violence.)
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