Micmacs (2009)

Micmacs (2009)

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"Kiss me Hardy." "My name's Bazil." "Really? Then I'm not interested."
“Kiss me Hardy.”
“My name’s Bazil.”
“Really? Then I’m not interested.”

Twitter Plot Summary: A man is shot in the head but doesn’t die. He hatches a plan to take down two weapon manufacturers. You know, for revenge.

Genre: Action/Comedy/Crime

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Key Cast: Dany Boon, Andre Dussollier, Nicolas Marie, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Yolande Moreau, Julie Ferrier, Omar Sy, Dominique Pinon, Michel Cremades.

Five Point Summary:

1. Does every French film look like The Fifth Element?
2. What’s with all the hand clicking stuff?
3. Human cannonball!
4. Inside the villain’s flat/abode when he returns unexpectedly. Surprisingly tense stuff.
5. A typical resolution, albeit totally unexpected given the previous insanity.

Until this year I had very limited exposure to foreign language cinema. My main exposure had been to the likes of Taxi (one through three), Das Boot and certain anime films including some Studio Ghibli. Then there are the movies of Luc Besson which often transpose the European style to big budget “Hollywood” movies – see The Fifth Element as perhaps the best example of this. Of course, when watching foreign language cinema it will often go one of two ways – either deathly serious and full of weighty dialogue, or it will be a ridiculously over the top and occasionally surreal movie. Micmacs, or to give it its full title in French, “Micmacs à tire-larigot” (literally meaning non-stop shenanigans) falls into the latter camp. The plot is quite a basic one – man seeks revenge on weapons manufacturers after he gets a bullet to the head. At that stage it diverts into surreal territory – lead character Bazil (Boon) teams up with a rather odd group of eccentric misfits who offer to help him with his mission.

We’re often told about films that are set up as live action cartoons, and Micmacs is a proud member of this club. Tonally it’s often in the same context as a Warner Brothers or Tom and Jerry cartoon, where the weird, the wacky, the wonderful occur. With a suitable amount of caution it doesn’t stretch to having character’s eyes pop out of their heads or the old faithful of running off a cliff and gravity not taking hold until the character realises they’re not on solid ground any more, but it goes as far as the real world setting will permit which I suppose will have to do. In fact it might help if you think of it as an extension to the silent comedies of early cinema, or more recently the likes of Mr Bean – but not the Mr Bean movie where he had dialogue, obviously.

Yeah, he's a bit special.
Yeah, he’s a bit special.

Where the film gets clever is when the plot to bring down the weapons manufacturers comes to fruition, and has some fun with the crime/revenge thriller template without really breaking the mold. Bazil’s plan involves pitting two big arms manufacturers against one another with the aim of having them take each other down. For reasons that will become clear, and because the narrative would be boring otherwise, things go wrong and the group have to work around the problem in order to achieve their goal. It’s more interesting than that description makes out, honest.

In the middle of all this is the budding love story between Bazil and Elastic Girl, so called because she’s a contortionist. He’s almost too engrossed in his revenge plot to notice her affections, or perhaps he’d just rather get that out of the way before declaring any feelings for her. In any case, the notion of them having a relationship isn’t forced and fits nicely into the narrative. Another fun addition is the movie references littered throughout the film – Bazil is a big fan of cinema and thus many of his ideas spin out from the movies he’s seen. It’s perhaps telling that Bazil begins the film by watching – and quoting verbatim – The Big Sleep, the classic 1946 movie starring Humphrey Bogart. Micmacs is a film that follows in the same tradition as The Big Sleep, with a glut of movie references and commentary on the tricks of cinema added for good measure.

So, as far as foreign language cinema goes it’s pretty much par for the course – completely bonkers but with an engaging story, an extensive and equally engaging cast, and a number of amusing moments littered throughout. Just don’t let the subtitles put you off.

Favourite scene: Making the bad guys think they’re being transported to Africa or a similar desert-related area. The truth is more amusing.

Quote: “Mom always told me to avoid twisted girls.”

Silly Moment:  The human cannonball. Nuff said.

Score: 4/5

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