By Marc Bauer
The greatest beauty in filmmaking also happens to be one of its most terrible tragedies. Outside of the world of serial films, movies exist in a universe created entirely unto themselves. When you watch a film, you are glimpsing a window into a world created solely for that film. In many instances, the films exist in the same world we are a living; but the films that soar and take us away, those are films that are created so thoroughly that we are totally enveloped in the universe in which they exist. The nuances of the world, the subtleties that make it different from what we are familiar with, are what make it truly magical. It is sad that we only get a visa to these worlds of wonder for a few hours, and then they are gone. What did the camera leave unanswered? What was down that alleyway there? These worlds are so rich and inviting, you want more time to explore.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet doesn’t work like most directors. He has created a contextual fabric from which he wends all his tales. There is something in his mise-en-scene that he carries between his films. (Let us discount Alien Resurrection from the oeuvre I’m discussing, as he was only the director here.) From film to film, there is certainly an air that carries about. If Amelie were to walk past Clapet’s Butcher Shop, you would not bat an eye; if One and Crank were to appear in Micmacs, again it would seem totally on the level. Is returning to the well a good or a bad thing? In the case of Jeunet, and his newest, Micmacs a Tire Larigot, it is entirely welcome.
Micmacs centers on Bazil, a young man whose father died via a roadside explosion. Years later, Bazil is hit by a stray bullet in a freak drive-by shooting. He learns that his bullet and his father’s bomb were made by the same arms company. Following his convalescence, Bazil is taken into a strange group, something that falls between Fagin’s troupe and an artists’ commune, where he makes many new friends. Bazil transforms the grotto where they live into a magical world of tinkertoys and gadgets made from discarded junk. Friendships develop, and eventually this rag-tag group aligns to help Bazil find revenge on the company that killed his father and left him with a bullet in his head.
The film is typical Jeunet, heart-warming, bold, fun and enrapturing. The color palette is similar to Jeunet’s ouvre, deep browns, greens and yellows; deeply warm and organic in both color and feel. The star of the show however, is Dany Boon. Portraying Bazil like a slightly more verbose version of silent film comedians, he relies heavily on all parts of his body, and isn’t afraid of broad physical comedy. Dany Boon is the highest paid European actor, and has sold more copies of his one man shows than anyone else in French history. I had never heard of him, but I certainly want to seek out more of his material after seeing this film.
Watching Micmacs, there are elements that we’ve seen before in heist films before, but seeing those elements used here, they take on a comedic air; yet while lampooning, they become something else entirely. Micmacs is a mélange, a mix of so many elements, that by reading the ingredients, one would assume the final product would be heavy handed and difficult to enjoy. Equal parts Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, Oceans 11, Buster Keaton, Mission Impossible and a Rube Goldberg machine, the film lives up to the title, which roughly translates to “A Bunch of Dodgy Dealings.” Be prepared to be transported somewhere unique, engaging and totally engrossing. I’m ready to seconds!