Since telling people I have seen the new Jean-Pierre Jeunet film Micmacs, a strange species of human have emerged; those who did not like Amelie. This was on par with friends telling me they have wings tucked under their shirts: I simply never considered the possibility. And honestly, if you didn’t like Amelie (insert disbelieving sigh here), then you probably won’t dig Micmacs.
Jeunet’s worlds are a quaint, endearing niche of France where the humour is bawdy, the violence painless, and revenge not swift but definitely sweet. Micmacs tells the story of Bazil (Dany Boon), who at his videostore workplace one day becomes the unfortunate recipient of a stray bullet to the head. Instead of killing him, it just leaves him with a scar and an occasional need to concentrate to slow his heart rate. Alas, his stay in hospital has left him with his position replaced and with his flat rented out, so now, homeless and unemployed, he takes up a series of amusing busking jobs (standing on the other side of a pole where a beautiful woman is singing and miming to her is a marvellously fun turn.) Eventually, he is discovered by Placard, a kindly man who knows where someone with Bazil’s level of ingenuity may come in handy.
Bazil is led to a world located beyond a tunnel of garbage, where a group of people has come together to subsist on the items people throw away. It’s a beautiful world of gadgets and puppets, little engineered displays of robotics done by resident inventor Petit Pierre. An enthralling cast of characters follows, including the Amelie-meek Calculette nearby to supply measurements and all similar knowledge off the top of her head, and the tense and sensitive La Môme Caoutchouc, a contortionist who likes to surprise people by hiding in fridge shelves. With his new friends, Bazil decides to do something about the weapons manufacturers who not only supplied the bullet that deprived him of his original existence, but the land mine that killed his father many years before.
Much is left unsaid in Micmacs; brute emotion and long backstories are eschewed for what is happening now. A man of few words anyway, once entrenched in his new happy world Bazil never reflects sadly upon his lost past. Short, amusing flashbacks are occasionally given for a couple of other characters, but mostly Micmacs is the tale of fun and complicated revenge that Bazil and co launch upon the manufacturers. It’s as cartoonish and entertaining as you could hope, with them spying on the offending men—Nicolas Thibault de Fenouillet and François Marconi—by pretending to be window-washers or hiding in boxes. There’s a bit of sex, with randy characters going at it in fully-clothed, Carry-On-style shrieking delight. Somehow, it tackles the serious issue of taking down people indulging in the misery of others with a light touch; possibly because it’s something many people desire but know is an unrealistic achievement. The final outcome is satisfying, moreso because of the genuine hints of danger throughout the film.
Adding to the fun is self-referential hints, as the characters pass billboards for the movie Micmacs with the scene advertised being the very one you are watching. Jeunet is a fan of casting many of his actors from his previous movies, but all are great; Dany Boon, with his 4/4 name, starts almost bland as he wanders blankly through a post-disability world and then becomes completely endearing; old Jeunet hat Dominique Pinon is his usual volatile self, determined to prove he won a Guinness World Record and then beat it; Julie Ferrier as contortionist and potential tetchy love interest La Môme Caoutchouc is something to behold (and be jealous of); Yolande Moreau appears yet again in a motherly role as Tambouille, there to cook dinner and give anyone what-for if they need it.
As sometimes happens when I get caught up in the movie and miss a sentence of subtitles, I was occasionally confused about what was happening. With such an agreeable bunch of friends, there wasn’t always an exposition-filled discussion about what was happening in the film. No matter; it’s enough to just get swept away. Micmacs is a small delight, something not eternally memorable but impossible not to like. Unless you didn’t like Amelie. Pffft. You’re just saying that, right?