June 11, 2010

Micmacs (06/11/10)

Lettergrade: B

Micmacs was made by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, best known to American audiences for 2001's Amélie and 2004's A Very Long Engagement, and before that, the cult classics Delecatessen and The City Of Lost Children. This new one is a heist movie filtered through his trademark whimsy. While it's not the best film in his canon, it's smooth and enjoyable with more tension than what you're likely to find in The A-Team, which happened to open the same time that this limited release made it to LA.

Dany Boon plays the gangly-looking Bazil. His father was killed by a landmine in Morocco when he was young, and as an adult, a stray bullet from a nearby robbery puts him into a coma and causes him to lose his coveted job as a video store clerk. Now homeless, he takes up with a gang of circus and street performers who all live in a Parisian junk yard, including Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon as a human-cannonball record-holder as well as Julie Ferrier as an oddly sexy contortionist. Together, they all help Bazil take down the two weapons manufactures who were responsible for Bazil's misfortune via a series of whimsical set pieces.

I found the movie to be pleasant, but somewhat lightweight over all. I was a little surprised to see a strong anti-weapons message in a movie that is a farce at its core, but that didn't necessarily bother me. The film reminded me most of the first Mission: Impossible in that the set pieces were expertly staged, and made great use of silence in order to ratchet up the tension. The rest of the movie is infectiously charming, as Jeunet's movies tend to be, and would be a pleasure to watch for that alone.

The picture is in French with subtitles, but honestly so much of the movie contains wordless action that I didn't even really think about the fact that I had to allow my eyes to dip in order to figure out what the actors were saying occasionally. Additionally, as a life-long film score nerd, I got a kick out of the fact that the soundtrack made use of a number of archival score pieces by old school composer Max Steiner as a supplement to the original stuff by Raphael Beau.

Micmacs (aka Micmacs à tire-larigot) was released in France in October of 2009, and is Jeunet's first movie since 2004. Even though he's a foreign-language director who is atypically well-known to American audiences, I appreciate that's stuck to making the kinds of movies he's wanted to. His one foray into Hollywood filmmaking was 1997's Alien: Resurrection, on which he found himself handcuffed by Fox and unable to really make the film he wanted to. Amilé, his greatest financial and critical success, was made after that, and he's always resisted Hollywood overtures since, including Warner Bros.'s aggressive campaign to get him to make the fifth Harry Potter film, which ultimately went to dry and unimaginative TV director David Yates. Part of me is sad that some of these large properties won't have the benefit of a inventive filmmaker like Jeunet on their side, but at the same time I admire that he'd rather make his own movies his way, and not get pushed around while making them.

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