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


Thomas Kinkade Further Ruins Christmas

The last trend in art--View and Barf.

I don’t normally wish bankruptcy on people, but when I read that Thomas Kinkade’s production company filed a Chapter 11 petition in June, I have to admit that I experienced gushes of guiltless glee. Thomas Kinkade’s art is to good taste what double-knit polyester is to high fashion. (I swear that if you put a Kinkade decal on your sweat pants it will make your ass look fat.)

Hooray! I thought—no more garish neon skies, yellow light shining in the windows of faux castles, stone-bridged s-curve creeks, or cottages that look like they were designed by bourgeois hobbits. My God! Good taste might break out right here in America.

As The Beatles sang, ‘Whoa-o-o-o I, should have known better….” Not only is Tom still committing aesthetic assault with a sabled brush, he’s just teamed up with the Bradford Exchange for a new offering that manages to sink lower than a shunned mole and be actively vile at the same time. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kinkade’s “The True Meaning of Christmas," a composition that features jolly old Saint Nick busily at work in front of his fireplace carving crèches. This masterpiece is crowned by a painting above the mantle of “Victorian Christmas II.” It’s by the old master himself, Tomasardo da Kinkade. (Maybe the reproduction rights to “Drink the Kool-aid III” are tied up in bankruptcy court.)

Jesus, Mary, and the Reindeer!!! How many ways is this offensive? All hail the new Trinity: Santa, Jesus, and Kinkade. Isn’t it bad enough that Christmas has become an orgy of consumerism without Kinkaide rubbing our noses in it? In friggin’ July no less. If we wanted to get all PoMo (postmodernist) about it, we could speculate on why Santa and the painting are much larger than the crèche. Let’s. After all, Santa’s bag is next to him, toys and a list flowing out the top. Somehow I doubt that Jack through Matti are on the must-have-manger list and the carving is too large to fit in the “Mrs. Claus” stocking. Guess the crèche must be destined for the next person on the list. Maybe “Mitt.” Mitt Romney’s actually a Mormon, but he’s willing to become a born-again if you promise to vote for him. (He’s be willing to become a gay raccoon-juggler from Seti Alpha VI if you'll vote for him.)

But wait…there’s more. Not only do we get nearly 11 inches of “lifelike” hand-painted resin, flip a switch and the painting illuminates. Push a button and hear minstrel Tom himself “narrate the Christmas story.” Which one, I wonder—the one told in the New Testament, the poem by Clement Moore, or the story by Charles Dickens? To really get in the correct spirit it should be the script from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, or maybe NLCV II to provide symmetry with “Victorian Christmas II.”

All of this is yours for $99.99 plus $14.95 for shipping and handling. How much to contribute to the creditors’ fund in the bankruptcy lawsuit? Santadamn it! I want Kinkade to be sent to the seventh layer of hell where he will be body painted by elves for eternity.