Danny Boon as Bazil
Julie Ferrier as La Môme Caoutchouc
Jean-Pierre Marielle as Placard
Omar Sy as Remington
Marie-Julie Baup as Calculette
Dominique Pinon as Fracasse
Yolande Moreau as Tambouille
Michel Crémadès as Petit Pierre
André Dussollier as Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet
Nicolas Marié as François Marconi
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
I am wracking my brain trying to think of a Buster Keaton film that began with his father being blown up by a mine followed shortly by Buster himself getting shot in the head by a stray bullet. Since I’m coming up blank, I think it’s safe to call Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Micmacs” something unique.
Bazil (Danny Boon), the “Buster Keaton-like” figure in question, may be the luckiest unlucky man who ever lived. Sure he lost his dad as a young man and yes, he’s got a bullet lodged in his skull, and okay, the time spent in the hospital recuperating ensured that both his apartment would be re-let and his job as a video store clerk would go to some cute girl. And the cardboard box he ends up using as a blanket isn’t quite long enough to cover his feet.
On the other hand, he survived getting shot in the head, so that’s got to count for something. More than something it turns out when he gets picked up by a canny salvager (Jean-Pierre Marielle), who then introduces him to a family of outcast all living in a Paris junkyard.
“Micmacs” roughly translates to “Madness” and it tries its best to live up to the name, resulting in a whirling dervish of a movie that’s more interested in what it’s doing at any given moment than actually getting anywhere. Those moments are pretty good, though, filled with some fantastically creative visual references and jokes, like the fact that Bazil keeps driving past billboards portraying events happening to him at exactly that moment, emblazoned with the films logo.
Jeunet’s trademark visual wit is in full bloom and shorn of dramatic heaviness or solipsism, it results in a film that floats effortlessly, a light, unassuming treat. And that’s saying something about a film that has a group of African dictators partaking in the most sadistic version of Russian roulette ever devised.
Out on one of his junk runs, Bazil discovers the arms manufacturers who created the weapons that ruined his life are in fact deadly rivals with buildings situated directly across from each other. With just his wits, and the combined refuse of Paris, Bazil is determined that somehow, in some way, he will make them pay for what they’ve done.
It may be the most unlikely caper movie ever devised, partly at least because it has no point. That’s not entirely fair; it does poke its share of fun at arms manufacturers and the ways they try to disguise to the world the reality of what they actually do, but that’s more of a side effect of the film. The real focus is on contortionists hiding in boxes and homemade cannons propelling people across the Seine.
Not that there’s anything wrong with lightness, especially when it’s done so well, but dialogue from long-time collaborator Guillaume Laurant is almost non-existent. “Micmacs” is more a film about implausible physical feats and improbable coincidences than it is about people communicating with one another.
It does lack a little heart, though. More attention is paid to fleshing out the arms dealers (André Dussollier and Nicolas Marié) than Bazil; his helpers are whatever they’re presiding trait is: a contortionist, a human calculator, an ethnographer who only speaks in aphorisms.
“Micmacs” is quick and funny and easy but so light it floats away from you when all is said and done, and doesn’t leave much behind. It’s worth the time you spend with it though.
Micmacs is now playing in select cities and will expand to more areas over the summer.