Review: Micmacs (TIFF)
PLOT: A mild-mannered video-store clerk, Bazil (Dany Boon), takes a stay bullet to the head, which cannot be removed, as he would become a vegetable. Instead, the doctors are forced to leave it in, warning Bazil that he could drop dead at any second. Having lost his job, due to his extended hospital stay, Bazil finds himself living on the street- until he's adopted by an underground society of misfits- called the Micmacs.
REVIEW: I can"t believe I'm actually admitting this but I've never actually seen the film AMELIE. I know, I know, it's a masterpiece and I'm sure if I watched it I'd love it but for some reason I just never got around it. I did manage to see director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's follow up film, the WW1 epic A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, and despite its mixed critical, and audience reaction- I thought it was absolutely fantastic, so I was looking forward to his follow up.
MICMACS is a much smaller scaled film than ENGAGEMENT, but to me, it's just as good, maybe better. It's probably more in line with his earlier work, like DELICATESSEN, although it looks like this must have been filmed with a pretty high budget, as it's more lavish than most Hollywood blockbusters I've seen in awhile. Visually, it's stunning- with the candy colors popping off the screen so brightly, I wanted to run up to the theater screen and lick it. Kidding.
Another huge bonus for me was the musical score, which is heavy on the use of archival tracks from different Max Steiner scores, who was the head of the music department at Warner Bros., during the 1940's- scoring most of Humphrey Bogart's big films. You see, Boon's character loves old movies, so most of the music we hear on the score is music from the films he loves so much, like THE BIG SLEEP, and TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE. The idea is that this is music he's playing back to himself in his imagination, to punctuate the moments in his story that he thinks are dramatic. At one point, he even imagines a whole studio orchestra scoring a big dramatic moment early in the film. This is just one of many post-modern touches in the film, which is VERY aware of it's own artificiality (heck, MICMACS' own theatrical poster is featured in the film several times).
However the best part of MICMACS has to be the brilliant comedic performance from Dany Boon. A huge star in France, his last film, BIENVENUE CHEZ LES CH'TIS is one of the country's biggest box office hits with him now supposedly the highest paid actor in France. Having seen this, I can easily see why, as he delivers a comedic performance that makes me think he must be the second coming of Charlie Chaplin. It's an INCREDIBLE comedic performance, with Boon playing a modern version of Chaplin's Little Tramp. Like MODERN TIMES, where the tramp grappled with the Great Depression, and THE GREAT DICTATOR, which he encountered war, prejudice, and fascism, Boon's Bazil encounters a similarly timely threat- the mass proliferation of arms.
In the film, Bazil manages to track down the maker of the bullet lodged in his brain, to an arms manufacturing plant in Paris, which conveniently, is located across the street from yet another arms dealership- this one responsible for a landmine that killed his father years earlier. To get even with both companies, he uses his new found friends, the titular MICMACS (which include Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon, as well as a lovely, contortionist love interest) - to help him concoct a scheme that will pit the CEOs of both companies against each other, so that they can be exposed for the crooked, warmongers they really are.
Lest you think this is too political for it's own good- have no fear. Politics take a backseat to entertainment, and this truly is one of the most entertaining films I've seen at TIFF this year. It's a wonderful comedic adventure- and one that is sure to please Jeunet's die-hard fans, among whom I now count myself.
Other reviews from TIFF: MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS - UP IN THE AIR - JENNIFER'S BODY - THE INVENTION OF LYING - DAYBREAKERS - YOUTH IN REVOLT - THE BOYS ARE BACK - THE ROAD - THE INFORMANT!- BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS - A SERIOUS MAN- LEAVES OF GRASS