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Rental Review: Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009)

September 21, 2011
  • Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Released by Warner Bros.
  • Written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurent
  • Rating: ****

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest film should appeal to audiences who adored his previous films, such as Delicatessen and Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. Thankfully, even those of us who have not forgiven this director for Alien Resurrection can still appreciate this quirky comedy (where Jeunet’s penchant for farce is more appropriate).

Viewers with no patience for subtitles will likely be the only ones not taken in by this film’s charms…well, maybe war profiteers will not care for it, either. The movie’s antiwar slant is hardly subtle, but the light-hearted approach will hopefully disarm even the war hawks, metaphorically if not literally. Much like Blazing Saddles, this French flick is too much fun to warrant serious offense, but it still has the potential to win some people over to its political bias.

Dany Boon plays Bazil, who lost his father to a land mine as a child and nearly lost his own life to a bullet as an adult. By the time he recovers, he has lost his position in society, and he lives on the streets of Paris until Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau) adopts him as part of her clan of misfits, which also includes Julie Ferrier as a contortionist (and love interest) and Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon as a human cannonball.

Bazil discovers the competing arms manufacturers that created the land mine and the bullet, respectively, and with the help of his bizarre new troupe, he begins engaging in Non-Stop Shenanigans (a translation of the film’s title) to pit the amoral profiteers against each other. Through some rather inspired schemes, Bazil takes down the businesses that place weapons into the hands of terrorists, dictators, revolutionaries, and other such killers.

As usual, Jeunet’s vision of Paris is gorgeously grotesque, and his farcical outlook prevents the social commentary from ever becoming overbearing or mean-spirited. He does, however, take his message seriously, preventing the movie from feeling too inconsequential. His actors capture the intended tone perfectly with their performances, thus avoiding another Alien Resurrection-style mishap.

The film relies heavily upon Max Steiner’s score for the Howard Hawks classic The Big Sleep (which also makes an onscreen appearance near the beginning of this film), but the term “film noir” could hardly be applied to this picture. (If Micmacs resembles the Bogie/Becall picture in any way, it would have to be in the 1946 film’s reshoots, which injected ample amounts of humor into the story.) Despite its allusions to far graver pictures, Jeunet’s cinematic antiwar statement remains utterly optimistic.

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From → Film Criticism

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