Retro Review: “Micmacs”


Sometimes a film is just too clever for its own good. It may have a set-up, plot or characteristic that astonishes to the point that one becomes lost or confused. This French effort, from Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) is a paradigm of this particular problem.

Somewhere in the Algerian desert, a French sapper is killed by a rogue landmine. The news of his death sends his newly-widowed wife into a state of shock; she is eventually taken to a psychiatric unit where she spends the rest of her days. Their only son, meanwhile, is left an orphan, enduring years of hardship.

Cut to the present day, and our boy has grown to be Bazil (Dany Boon), the clerk at a Parisian video store. One evening, Bazil looks out of the store’s entrance to view a commotion outside, only to be shot in the head by a stray bullet. He survives, with the bullet lodged firmly in his brain, living with the fear that he could die at any second, lest he become stressed.

As if his fortune couldn’t get any worse, Bazil is left destitute and homeless after being fired from his job. Eventually, he’s saved form a lifetime of begging by a group of eccentrics who live in the slums of Paris. The group very quickly warms to Bazil, only too keen to help him in his quest for vengeance against the two weapons manufacturers that ruined his life.

MicMacs à Tire-larigot (a title which roughly translates to English as Non-stop Shenanigans) was released in its native France back in 2009, to modest critical fanfare. It received a warmer reception here in Australia, earning $1 million during its theatrical run – that’s more than most domestic films make at the box-office.

It’s easy to see why this was the case. Micmacs was unlike any other movie released at the time, from France or otherwise. The story is told visually rather than through dialogue, with the majority of the film’s humour coming from physical comedy. Pay close attention to the subtitles, though, and one will see the odd line of funny dialogue.

The quirky characters are also a delight. Dany Boon’s Bazil is obviously the stand-out, his performance somewhat reminiscent of the British comedian Rowan Atkinson. Other favourites include Bazil’s love interest, a contortionist known only as “Elastic Girl” (Julie Ferrier), love-stuck obsessive-compulsive Calculator (Marie-Julie Boup) and typist-cum-con-artist Remington (Omar Sy, The Intouchables).

If only the story was as memorable as the characters were. I first saw Micmacs during its initial Australian release, and after revisiting it a couple of months ago, it surprised me how little of it I remembered. Sure, it has a very clever story, but the film never gives the viewer enough information or time to apprehend what is happening.

Perhaps if there was more narration or dialogue, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film would have received more considerable attention. Instead, the smart and otherwise enjoyable Micmacs is lost in a sea of forgettable features.

3 stars


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