By Fred Topel | Image property of Sony Pictures Classics
Micmacs was one of the films I missed at South by Southwest. I totally wanted to see the latest Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, but I think it conflicted with a movie I had to see for interviews. So I got to relive a little of my SXSW experience at an LA screening for Micmacs.
The opening of Micmacs is pure Jeunet visual. You get the entire story by seeing it, with minimal dialogue. A boy’s father dies trying to disarm a land mine. After the funeral, the boy runs away. He grows up a movie buff which defines his imagination, and survives a gunshot. Even the action scene he experiences on the street is artful.
When people start talking, it’s still the dark irreverence that defines Jeunet’s films. The doctor’s philosophical debate is profound, but they reduce it to a coin toss. The gunshot survivor meets a gang of oddball survivors and they conspire to bring justice to the weapons magnate who caused his family so much tragedy.
It’s a Jean-Pierre Jeunet heist movie. The gang prepares and scopes out their target, then they execute their tactics with all the gimmicks and twists of a Jeunet movie. The great thing is, all their elaborate crackpot schemes work. Of course it’s a target that totally deserves is, a weapons magnate and all around A-hole.
The missions are darkly whimsical. All the magical things have an element of death or tragedy to them, yet even the deadliest ones are innocent. Nobody dies at the hands of the Micmacs gang. Any collateral damage ends up okay, like a cartoon where deadly violence is just a silly nuisance. All the other Jeunet movies were violent too. Only Amelie was the softie romance, and that’s the one everyone knows.
They have fun goofing around with their gadgets and tools of the trade too. There are elaborate visual sequences like back in Delicatessen. All the random asides are clever, intellectual philosophical observations about mundane phenomena. By the way, is that a billboard for Micmacs in the movie? If I’m right, that is awesome.
All the handmade devices and the very constructed structure of their hideout looks like something out of Labyrinth (my favorite movie for any new readers.) I love seeing animatronics done well, although it’s not quite animatronic. It’s part of the world and it totally works.