After directing 2004’s romantic war film A Very Long Engagement, Jean-Pierre Jeunet is back on more familiar fantastical ground with his most recent offering. He may not be working with his old pal Marc Caro these days, but this is the closest relative in terms of style and narrative to their collaborative gems Delicatessen and The City of The Lost Children.
You have to feel sorry for Bazil (Dany Boon); when he was very young he lost his soldier father to a landmine. Thirty years on, working in a video shop in Paris, he gets caught by a stray bullet from a shootout just outside of where he works. The bullet is in a tricky place in his head and therefore cannot be removed. Needless to say, he’s not a big fan of those who make weapons.
Although he’s lucky to still be alive, Bazil loses both his job and his home. He wanders around the city, trying to earn a Euro or two, but living on the streets is far from easy.
His luck changes when he meets Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), an ex-con, who takes Bazil under his wing and introduces him to the family of freaks who live in a junk yard; it’s there that they take a leaf out of the Wombles’ book by making good use of the things that they find, things that the everyday folks leave behind.
It turns out that everyone who lives there is a little bit special too, with each one having their own quirky skill: for instance, Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup) only needs to look at something to know what it’s made of and how heavy each piece is; Bendy Girl (Julie Ferrier) is quite the contortionist making her one flexible friend; Fracasse (Dominique Pinon) shows no fear as the world’s number one human cannonball; and Petit Pierre (Michel Crémadès) can make any manner of junk come to life.
With his new-found friends, he soon realises that between them they can take down the two biggest weapon makers responsible for Bazil’s misfortunes. By the time Bazil and pals are done, they won’t know what hit them.
Jeunet is simply back to his creative best with Micmacs. What he’s done here is taken some of the magical elements of Delicatessen and transposed them to a modern day Parisian setting. It probably shouldn’t work – and probably wouldn’t have in anyone else’s hands – but Jeunet’s vision allows these two very different worlds to gel together beautifully.
As well of his unparalleled vision, Jeunet once again proves how important casting can be. Despite not working for the director before, Boon gives the impression that he was born to permanently live in the world’s Jeunet dreams up, with an effortless and affable performance. He graces the screen as if he were the bastard child of chaplin. Then you have stalwart Pinon, who has not only appeared in every film of Jeunet’s, it’s very unlikely that he’ll ever be able to escape the director’s wild imagination.
And although on paper the story itself doesn’t appear that engaging, Boon’s tale of revenge on the two weapons makers that did him wrong is delivered with stylish bravado and a healthy dollop of j’ ne sais quoi.
With Hollywood currently sucking every last drop of originality out of the film industry with the ferocity of a famished vampire, Jeunet is one of the very last Van Helsings standing, who can save audiences from this seemingly inevitable death by mediocrity. With the possible exception of someone like Terry Gilliam, Jeunet is very much in a league of his own. Even when he gets it wrong, as he did with Alien: Resurrection, he still puts on quite the show.
Micmacs is a visual treat from beginning to end, littered with joyous set pieces. By the end of it you should be sure to check yourself for bruises, as there’s no way to avoid being truly battered by its relentless charm offensive. Go ahead, hurt yourself silly.