Monday, August 02, 2010


by guest reviewer Robin Farmer

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's “Micmacs” offers a quirky tale about offbeat characters in Paris who teach two feuding weapon manufacturers a memorable lesson about greed and loss.

The hero of the film is Bazil, whose childhood is crushed after his father stepped on a land mine in Morroco. Bazil (Danny Boon) grows up to assume a modest life as a video store clerk mindlessly reciting movie dialogue. One night, while watching a film, a stray bullet slams into his forehead, leaving him wounded, unemployed and homeless.

He aimlessly wanders the streets until he meets ex-con Slammer, (Jean-Pierre Marielle) who introduces him to bizarre group of junkyard collectors including Elastic Girl, a lovelorn contortionist (Julie Ferrieran), Calculator, a math wiz, Buster, a human cannonball, and mother figure Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau).

Living beneath a salvage yard, this newfound, oddball family will help Bazil exact revenge when he stumbles upon two weapon companies located across the street from each other. One built the landmine and the other the bullet that shattered his life. That's when the film's tone shifts and a series of original and amusing set pieces begin, leading to a surprisingly poignant ending.

With a whimsical wink and comedic nod, the film is a hodgepodge of genres, from slapstick comedy and fantasy to action and drama. The film's inconsistent tone is part of its charm and challenge. Visually stunning, the storyline sometimes gets muddied by the shenanigans that at times appear more important than plot.

The full title is "Micmacs a Tire-Larigot," which in French roughly translates into "nonstop shenanigans."

But beneath the over-the-top silliness is a sweet story about the weak battling the powerful, revenge and forming a family not based on blood. These themes are expressed with some violence and a little sex, making it inappropriate for youngsters, which is too bad since the younger set would marvel at the sight gags and savor the film's cleverness.

The filmmaker's message is deadly serious and twofold: weapons destroy lives beyond the dead victims and society's glossed over misfits can be as inventive and powerful as the well-heeled elite ignoring them daily. Here, "throwaway people ” like the homeless, social misfits or former convicts, team up to make two powerful weapon sellers battle each other. In an age of technology worship, the film is a homage to old-fashioned ingenuity and teamwork.

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