Friday, 26 February 2010
'Micmacs' Review: The best film I saw last year...
In the first edition of the Splendor Cinema podcast Jon and I discussed out favourite movies of 2009. Missing from my list was a film I considered one of the very best and most enjoyable of the year, but as the film in question was not then on general release in the UK, I opted to consider it a film of 2010 and exclude it from my thinking for the time being. However, as of the 26th of February, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Micmacs’ is officially showing nationwide in UK cinemas, and the time is therefore right to post my appraisal of it here.
As previously mentioned, ‘Micmacs’ is the new film by the director of ‘Amélie’ Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and is his first film since 2004’s ‘A Very Long Engagement’. The story concerns a man named Bazil (Dany Boon) who finds himself the innocent victim of gangland violence on the streets of Paris - taking a gunshot wound to the head. Luckily Bazil survives the wound (albeit with the bullet permanently lodged in his brain) and befriends a gang of social misfits: featuring the usual array of quirky oddballs and cheerful grotesques, with parts for Jeunet regulars Dominique Pinon and Yolande Moreau. Together they conspire to bring down two international arms dealers, each guilty in their own way for crimes against both Bazil and the world in which he lives. It’s a darkly comic farce, with elements of social satire, not just of the arms trade and of corporations, but also broadly of Sarkozy-era France.
Of course the success of ‘Amélie’ can be attributed (for a large part) to the star-making central performance of Audrey Tautou in the title role, whose effervescent screen presence captivated audiences. But if Tautou was crucial to the success of that film, Dany Boon is equally crucial here. Boon (apparently already a huge comedy star in France) is quite brilliant, especially in one scene which requires him to convince an onlooker that he has entered a car – in what is surly a direct homage to a piece of Chaplin business seen in ‘City Lights’. Boon proves at moments like this that he is a naturally gifted silent comedian, and that if the sort of films made by Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd were still being made today, then Boon would be a huge international star. It also helps that matters that Boon is ably supported by a host of talented character actors who each pull off their own peculiar part with considerable skill.
Whilst I would usually try to steer clear of making simplistic “if you like ‘Three Amigos’, you’ll LOVE ‘Tropic Thunder’” type comments, I do think it’s probably quite accurate to say from the off that if you are one of those who didn’t get swept up in the whimsical charms of ‘Amélie’, then I would suggest you will not find much more to enjoy in ‘Micmacs’. If you hated that film's sensibilities (as a great many seem to do) then I don’t think this is the film for you. Conversely, I think fans of that film will find much to recommend about ‘Micmacs’, as it has the same oddball sensibility, along with many of Jeunet’s familiar visual motifs and thematic preoccupations.
Whilst I can see how the hyper-stylised world of the Jeunet film will not be to everyone’s taste, I found ‘Micmacs’ consistently entertaining. It was frequently funny, in parts touching and never less than beautiful to look at. Furthermore, it always has its heart exactly in the right place. And what more can you ask of a film than that?
'Micmacs' (rated '12A' by the BBFC) is now on general release across the UK, and is playing all week at the Duke of York's in Brighton. Also, on the subject of the long running 'Alice' boycott saga, the Odeon have relented to Disney's terms, a full look at which can be found here.