Micmacs an Offbeat Gem

Prepare to enter a magical, weird world.

Micmacs (2009)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
105 mins. Rated R (brief sexuality and violence)
In French with subtitles.
* * * * *

Think of a film that’s one part Oceans Twelve and one part Brazil and you’re still a few dollops of mayhem and weirdness short of the delightful French film Micmacs. It’s directed by the eccentric Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the filmmaker who gave us treats such as Delicatessen (1991), The City of Lost Children (1997), Alien Resurrection (1997), and Amélie (2001). If you know any of these films, you know that the only drummer to which Jeunet marches is one pounding the offbeat.

The protagonist of Micmacs is Bazil (Dany Boon), a young man whose life started going wrong when he was just a lad and his soldier father was killed by a French-made landmine. A decade later he’s the victim of a stray bullet made by the same French manufacturer. Surgeons decide to leave the slug in his brain as it would be too risky to remove it, leaving Bazil subject to moments of odd behavior and in danger of sudden death should he take a blow to the wrong part of the cranium. All of this also leaves Bazil both seething at the injustice of a system that makes millionaires out of merchants of death, as well as eminently unemployable. Just when the future looks very bad indeed for Bazil, he runs into Placard (the delightful Jean-Pierre Marielle), a former convict who brings him to live among the weirdest bunch of misfits you’ll ever encounter. They reside in a salvage yard, but beyond the external wall of junk lies a labyrinth that’s like an Erector set assembled by Dr. Seuss and Rube Goldberg. It is the abode of others just like Bazil—intelligent, resourceful, and slightly damaged. The good-natured Tambouille (Yolande Moreau) is the den mother to an oddball troupe crew that includes a math savant, a human cannon ball, and a contortionist (Marie-Julie Baup) who has the hots for Bazil. Together they plot a zany revenge scenario against France’s two top arms merchants.

Sound weird and implausible? It is. It’s also a total gas. This black comedy is laugh-out-loud absurd in places, touching in others, and pure got-the-bastards pleasurable in all the right moments. It’s so odd that a lot of theaters had no idea how to market it. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a town with an arts cinema and a smart booker, you’ll probably have to catch this one on video. Do so—it’s unlike anything else you’ll see outside of a Terry Gilliam film, and Jeunet is a far more consistent storyteller than Gilliam

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