Movie Review: MicMacs- While a Tad Uneven, Jeunet’s First Film in Five Years is Inventive, Fresh, and Consistent with His Developed Style

French cinema hasn’t been critically popular in the last couple of decades ever since the great French auteurs stopped making films, such as Godard, Truffaut, Melville, and Malle. However, there are always a select few filmmakers attempting to bring their own style, presence, and feeling to the big screen and one of those rare French filmmakers is Jean Pierre-Jeunet. In Jeunet’s new film, Micmacs à tire-larigot, the inventive director brings his unique visual presence, strength for diverse characters, and outrageous presentation style that he has so successfully developed over the years with such films as Amelie, The City of Lost Children, A Very Long Engagement, and Delicatessen. Micmacs à tire-larigot, otherwise known as MicMacs, is sort of like an absurd take on the narrative of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo but adding in the French philosophical flair and the modern debate between weapons and their creators. Of course the film is a bit disjointed in places, making its chaotic vision distract the audience more than it brings them further into the plots twists and turns, but overall the film is an enjoyable presentation of how vivid characters and intriguing visuals can make for beautiful, if not perfect, filmmaking.

MicMacs is Jeunet’s take on modern weaponry and its relation to the average citizen, sort of like how Howard Hawk’s Scarface was a lecture on gang violence. Setting the vision of the film around a lonesome video store owner named Bazil, played effectively by French character actor Dany Boon, who is tragically shot in the head by a stray bullet from gang violence. The bullet is lodged in his brain, which causes severe headaches, but is able to live and tries to live his life day by day. One of the fault’s of MicMacs is quite present in the beginning and that is its tone in relation to the protagonist’s tragedies. The exposition moves quite quickly on the screen presenting the death of his father in a distant fashion while being practically comedic in relation to the unfortunate coincidence that is Bazil’s bullet wound. Falling into a group of other misfits, who guard a trash yard, Bazil plans out his revenge against the two weapons manufacturers who he blames for causing his unfortunate predicament as well as his father’s death. Obviously the film takes the stance that it’s the creator of the weapon that is responsible, and proceeds to demonstrate just how bad these two CEOs are in the compromises they make and their basic attitude towards the average person. While this sentiment can be debated, the film keeps it controlled until the conclusion where it becomes a tad preachy. However, this aspect of the film doesn’t take away from the amusing presentation of the narrative that Jeunet is known for in his unique and recognizable style.

Every image in MicMacs is just a cinematographer’s dream using angles, rough lighting, delicate movements, and intriguing blocking to make every shot impress and engross you more into how the story is flowing. When Bazil gets shot in the beginning of the film, as he is reciting lines from a Bogart and Bacall film The Big Sleep, there is a magnificent use of framing on his eyes from a high point looking down as the blood drips down his face. Moments such as these certainly make the texture of the film overtly present and are layered throughout all of Jeunet’s films, including this one. Another strength Micmacs possesses is the natural sets that create a surprisingly absurd yet believable atmosphere. It’s when the fast paced editing and chaotic character moments try to be eye catching and humorous but actually distract us from getting involved with the situations at hand. It certainly gets us involved in the protagonist’s mental state, but at times it’s distracting as a whole making the film a bit disjointed in the end. The message of the film is also very, well French, introducing a bit of their idealistic view on weapons while never explaining why that view is the correct one. Depending on just having the moral high ground without explaining why is a tad pretentious, though the film isn’t really about lecturing you. Instead the film sets out to use humor and scenario predicaments to entertain you with intriguing characters that are brought to life by an eclectic cast that will ease you through the more preachy moments of the script.

The fresh and inventive presentation of Jeunet’s films wouldn’t be what they are without the great casts he chooses to present these larger than life characters he has the ability to create. Dany Boon as the mystifyingly weird Bazil is graceful in his movements and has some of the weirdest facial expressions to ever be on the big screen, but has enough sympathetic gestures and genuine emotion to never alienate us. But really it’s the motley crew that live in the strange junkyard that are the core to MicMacs utilizing all of their varying personalities and distinctive talents as actors to work so well off each of the others difficult tasks. Present among the group are familiar French character actors such as Omar Sy, Yolande Moreau, and Jean-Pierre Marielle. And, of course, Dominique Pinon as always provides his familiar and strange presence to Jeunet’s film as he has done numerous times before. This time Pinon even has a cameo as another one of his characters from Jeunet and Caro’s Delicatessen in a scene where a couple is playing music in an apartment. The two men who play the villains, Nicolas Marie and Andre Dussollier, make for convincing enough scumbags to make any audience member despise their side dealings and unethical compromises that are at the pivotal plot points of the film. Without these successful character depictions the absurdity and liveliness that the script intended to portray wouldn’t have been possible and the entertainment that is so evident in the final product can be dedicated to these fascinating performances.

Jean Pierre-Jeunet hasn’t made a film in five years and his new film MicMacs marks a definite return to his form of hectic character driven comedy dramas quite reminiscent of his earlier works such as Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. While this time the script gets a tad preachy with its modern setting and subject matter, its style is fresh when compared to the stale and formulaic filmmaking that has plagued Hollywood in the last 15 or so years. French film certainly hasn’t been up the standard it set itself back in the 60s, but filmmakers like Jeunet are attempting to bring the inventiveness and philosophical themed filmmaking French cinema was known for to a more accessible audience. MicMacs is a lively paced film that demonstrates a prowess in cinematography and character creation despite its overall disjointed narrative. Seeing as how the summer only really offers mindless films that are for supposedly pure entertainment, MicMacs is definitely a film that will stand above the rest as an inventive display of humorous filmmaking that remains original and consistent with Jeunet’s other masterful works.

Grade: B

One Response to “Movie Review: MicMacs- While a Tad Uneven, Jeunet’s First Film in Five Years is Inventive, Fresh, and Consistent with His Developed Style”
  1. The film that Bazil is watching before he is shot is The Big Sleep. This was originally a book written by Raymond Chandler in the early 1930’s and was made into a film a couple of years after it was published. I know this as I have studied the novel and recognise the character names, Geiger, and Regan.

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