Though the camera has certainly relaxed, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s inimitable mix of wit, charm, and visual ingenuity remains the same throughout his latest feature, Micmacs. Atmospheric lighting and creative set designs complement the array of curiously bizarre characters, leaving no frame without aesthetic appeal. The story itself plays off of Kurosawa, American film noir, and the Brothers Grimm, yet feels brilliantly original due to expressive acting and an emphasis on Rube Goldberg style problem solving. Perhaps not as thematically dark as Delicatessen or The City of Lost Children, Micmacs nonetheless carries a serious anti-war ideology that Jeunet is careful not to let encroach on the mostly lighthearted fun.Avid movie-watcher and video store clerk Bazil (Dany Boon) has had his life all but ruined by weapons of war. His father was killed by a landmine in Morocco and one fateful night a stray bullet from a nearby shootout embeds itself in his skull, leaving him on the verge of instantaneous death. Losing his job and his home, Bazil wanders the streets until he meets Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), a pardoned convict who introduces him to a band of eccentric junkyard dealers that includes Calculator, a math expert and statistician, Buster (Dominique Pinon), a record-holder in human cannonball feats, Tiny Pete, an artistic craftsman of automatons, and Elastic Girl, a sassy contortionist. When chance reveals to Bazil the two weapons manufacturers responsible for building the instruments of his destruction, he constructs a complex scheme for revenge that his newfound family is all too happy to help set in motion.
Jeunet’s films are all marked by spectacular visuals. The sets, costumes and makeup set his films apart from just about every other mainstream director and his use of peculiarities is his trademark. Even the main characters are tinged with idiosyncrasies and odd physical traits – they’re not unattractive, but they’re definitely molded from something other than the norm. Jeunet dares to be original while Hollywood sticks to being Hollywood. A quirkiness wafts around every element of Micmacs, making it a complimentary film to his other works (homage to Delicatessen also appears) as well as a new venture into less overactive camerawork. The story, with its divide and conquer tactics, is occasionally derivative of a contemporary Yojimbo, but the inclusion of bizarre specialists that complete a well-oiled machine of revenge is still refreshingly unique.
Each side mission concocted to reach the ultimate downfall of Bazil’s enemies is humorous, but unnecessarily intricate. However, the notion of being able to construct elaborate devices and sophisticated contraptions out of trash and salvage is as pictorially stimulating as the painstakingly planned teamwork devised to include every member of the group in a specialized manner toward the completion of every task. One must wonder, though, how much easier the distractions and plots could have been, or perhaps how much more unlikely to succeed if outside negotiations were shown (for instance, the group’s acquiring of an outdoor window-washing construct for the skyscraper office building, or the placement of a crane in the middle of a public bridge). It does all serves to keep things diverting, entertaining and distinctive, which is ultimately the grand appeal of Jeunet’s films.- The Massie Twins