After a lengthy hiatus, Micmacs à tire-larigot marks a refreshing return for Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one of French cinema’s most consistently fascinating filmmakers. He first dazzled audiences alongside partner-in-crime Marc Caro with a slew of shorts, the beloved dark comedy Delicatessenand the fairy tale The City of Lost Children, then took a detour through Hollywood with Alien: Resurrection before delivering the one-and-only Amélie and A Very Long Engagement, which manages to be at once a sweeping romance, potent anti-war piece and splendidly Gothic mystery worthy of comparison to Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novels. Now, devotees of his fantasy-laced work can safely add Micmacs, which screened at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, to his ever-growing résumé of cinematic triumphs.
Comedic actor Dany Boon (Bievenue chez les Ch’tis, Joyeux Noël) stars as endearing hero Bazil, whose father is killed when he steps on a landmine in Morocco. Many years later, a chance incident ends with him receiving a bullet in his skull that doesn’t kill him, but threatens the possibility of death at any moment. Rendered homeless by the accident, Bazil decides to seek vengeance against the two arms manufacturers responsible for the fateful mine and bullet, soon acquiring assistance in the form of a surrogate family of oddballs. They include Julie Ferrier as a talented contortionist, Omar Sy as an avid collector of expressions, Jean-Pierre Marielle as a veteran con man, Marie-Julie Baup as resident brainiac Calculette, Michel Crémadès as a gnomish inventor and familiar Jeunet collaborators Yolande Moreau and Dominique Pinon as, respectively, the group’s cook and a human cannonball record-holder.
Micmacs’ prologue contains the same sober tone and golden color scheme of Engagement, but from there, with the witty appearance of a title card reading “The End” and the flip of a coin, the film takes off on a deliriously funny and incredibly inventive joy ride. With help from his frequent co-writer Guillaume Laurent and an ingenious army of artists and technicians, Jeunet constructs yet another of his magpie nests of oddities and wonders, this one resembling a feature-length episode of Mission: Impossible as seen through the funhouse mirror of his imagination. As in Amélie and Engagement, the camera journeys through Paris with visible affection, highlighting a traveler’s must-visit list of locations like the Moulin Rouge, Pont de Bir-Hakeim (the bridge prominently featured in Last Tango in Paris and many other films) and distinctive St. Christopher’s hostel situated alongside the Bassin de la Villette. However, during the Q&A session after the TIFF screening, Jeunet said that after having made three films set in Paris, he was “done” with the city and would like to choose a different one for his next project, with San Francisco, where his wife hails from, being a possible contender (though one audience member enthusiastically shouted “Toronto!”).
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