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Micmacs

There are many words that could be used to describe Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs. Chief among them would be creative, whimsical, old-fashioned, inventive, and visual. This is a movie that creates its own universe and finds a way to reference itself while the story is being told.

It all begins when the father of the protagonist, Bazil (Danny Boon), dies while trying to disarm a land mine in Africa. Subsequently Bazil’s mother is sent to an asylum following a mental breakdown, forcing Bazil to be raised in a strict Catholic school, from which he eventually escapes. As an adult he can only get a job as a video store clerk, but he doesn’t mind since he loves old Bogart and Baccal movies and can even lip-synch the dialogue. Unfortunately, a drive-by shooting occurs outside the store one night and a stray bullet ends up lodged in Bazil’s head. He clearly cannot be described as lucky guy.

At the hospital, the doctor flips a coin on whether or not to try to remove the bullet. If he tries to remove, Bazil could end up a vegetable, if the bullet stays, it could kill him at any moment. It turns out that he walks out with the bullet still inside and people wondering if he cut himself with a can opener. Unfortunately, his job has been taken in his absence; he is evicted from his apartment and is now homeless in Paris. That is when his luck begins to change. He is adopted by a group of misfits living in a house made out of the city’s scraps.

They are a rather unique group. There is Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle) an ex-con who claims to have survived the guillotine, Remington (Omar Sy) a typist and an expert with words and expressions, Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup) a math expert, Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier) a contortionist who can fit inside a refrigerator, Mama Chow (Yolande Morreau) the mother hen of the group, and Petit Pierre (Michel Crémadès) an inventor who specializes in robots. There is also a human cannonball who claims to hold a Guinness record for highest jump out of a cannon, but he lost the certificate. What are you gonna do?

One day Bazil is bringing scraps to the family home for recycling when he finds two imposing buildings facing each other. In one building there is the company that build the land mine which killed his father. In the other lies the company that build the bullet that could kill him any day. He tries to have a conversation with the two merchants of death working in the opposing buildings, François Marconi (Nicoals Marié) and Nicolas Thibault De Fenouillet (André Dussolier), but is firmly rejected. Bazil’s oddball group of friends then force him to accept their help to get revenge leading to some rather elaborate schemes that all lead up to their main objective: get the two monsters to fight each other.

There is a lot to look at in this movie. The house where the Micmacs live is made out of a collection of every objects created by man. Outside the home there is metallic police officer that serves as a makeshift scarecrow to keep undesirables away. Whenever Bazil is panicking, he tries to calm himself by thinking about things that do not make sense, leading the camera to do a close-up on his forehead to show the audience what is going on inside his mind as he is thinking. Also, if you look at the right time you will see a poster advertising a movie called Micmacs.

The villains are quite easy to hate. They are rich, possibly racist, and are just so content to be doing great at selling objects whose sole purpose is to cause bodily harm and possibly death. One of them even keeps the body parts of famous men in his office. Just how do you get toe-nail clippings belonging to Winston Churchill?

What doesn’t quite work is how complex the revenge schemes are. When Bazil and the gang want to steal a truckload of weapons from one of the gun-dealers, their plan involves a glass bowl full of bumble bees that is supposed to break at a specific time, and the human cannonball being shot out of a makeshift cannon into a truck full of hay. Sounds like it was just an excuse to shoot someone out of a cannon.

Then again, in what other movie are you going to see a man shot out of a cannon this year? Or a woman hiding inside a drinking cabinet while outside there are three gangsters playing Russian roulette with a prisoner? For images and ideas like that, it is absolutely worth seeing a visual creation like Micmacs.

B+

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