I remember seeing Amelie for the first time a few years ago and feeling a sense of wonder and amazement, which led me into the magical world of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Beautiful tales of whimsy and imagination, Jeunet’s films are works of art, magical things that are like the best fairy stories you have ever read brought to life with style and panache. Apart from the appalling Alien: Resurrection, which shall never be mentioned again, his body of work has always been of the highest creative quality.
Thankfully, Micmacs carries on Jeunet’s trend of first class creativity and (with apologies to those who rate the World Cup) made up for a weekend of football banality and tantrums.
So, having been taken away from the beautiful game for a few hours on a Saturday, why was Micmacs the highlight of my weekend? Well, for one thing, it’s a two hour feel-good visual spectacle that, for all its sad moments, cannot but make you smile.
Opening on the battlefields of Afghanistan, a lone solider is blown to pieces by a landmine. It’s not the most happy way to start a film, and things continue to go downhill, as this unknown soldier had a wife and son, both of whom are affected profoundly by his tragic death.
The widow slowly goes mad while the soldier’s son is confined to an orphanage run by sadistic nuns. This orphan is the main star of the movie, a kinetic, hyperactive film-loving loser called Bazil (played with perfect comedy timing by Dany Boon), whose life goes from bad to worse when, while working as a video shop clerk, he’s the unfortunate collateral victim of a drive-by shooting. This leaves him with a bullet lodged so close to his brain that a doctor refuses to operate.
And just when it appears that Bazil’s life cannot possibly get any worse, he loses his flat and his job, and finds himself unemployed and homeless. Taking to the streets, Bazil uses his unusual talents of mimicry and mime skills to get by, living under cardboard roofs and in skips.
Unknown to our loveable outcast, however, he is being watched by another homeless person of unique skill. Slammer introduces Bazil to his world, a world built on a tip and inhabited with weird and wonderful characters.
The rest of the film can be summed up with the line ‘The Wombles do Ocean’s Eleven’. Essentially a mix of heist film mixed with The Sting, it’s all set against a backdrop of clockwork robots, salvage and the most eclectic cast of characters you will ever see.
Bazil finds that the bomb that killed his father and the bullet lodged in his brain were developed by two separate arms dealers, and with the help of his new friends, which include a world record holder for being a human cannonball in 1977, a man who speaks in clichés, a girl who calculates everything and a love interest who is also a contortionist, he slowly but surely turns these companies against each other and brings down the corrupt and evil leaders of each.
If this sounds insane, it is, and Micmacs provides some of the most surreal set pieces you will ever see. From a heist that involves being fired from a cannon into a missile depot to a stakeout that has people hiding in fridges, the movie is ingenious, funny and beautiful to watch.
Jeunet once again makes Paris his canvas, filling it with beautiful idealised shots of the city, bereft of people but full of astonishing skylines, architecture and sculptures. From the beautiful tunnels of the good-natured and loving Micmac family home to the chateaus of the evil arms dealers, the world inhabited by the cast is stylised and wondrous.
A magical film, Micmacs is a pleasure to watch, and the cast and crew bring everything they have to Jeunet’s vision. From Dany Boon’s skills that mimic the best slapstick elements of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, to Julie Ferrier, who plays Bazil’s bendy love interest, each character is full of life, has their own moment to shine and plays an integral part to this modern fairy tale.
A fun, intelligent and gorgeous looking movie, Micmacs has been billed as Jeunet’s satire on the worlds arm trade, but it’s so much more than that. In my opinion, Micmacs is up there with his other classics Amelie, Delicatessen and The City Of Lost Children.
While the tapestry of Jeunet’s Paris looks beautiful in standard definition, the upgrade to high definition adds that extra dimension to the proceedings. While not the most fantastic of transfers, the film still looks superb. The only thing missing, however, is a selection of extras.
We’ve come to expect a little more from a Blu-ray release, and while the film looks magnificent, the rest of the disc is lacking, only offering some nice menus and an interview with the director.
While the lack of extras is a shame, the film is still worth picking up in this format just to appreciate the intricate detail, design and thought put into every scene. For a couple of quid extra, you’re able to see the clockwork junk robots, Parisian posters, the fibres on the elaborate yet derelict clothing, and the wonderful passion and eye for design that goes into making this piece of feel-good whimsy worth every extra penny.
Micmacs is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.