Mic Macs – A Review

Bonjour mes ami and welcome to the first film review from the Electric Fleapit.  After great work over the last few weeks by our dear leader, Vicky Fabri, the film club has finally come together.  Our choices were put up on the Electric Fleapit website and gradually we all made our voices heard and voted for what our first film viewing would be.  With it being Oscar season, there were several quality options for us to choose.

Unfortunately, being the loser that I am, I had seen most of them so it narrowed my choices considerably. However, I hadn’t seen A Single Man and I really wanted to see if the hype surrounding Colin Firth was justified and see what Tom Ford had to offer.  Single Man was leading the vote for a good while, only to be usurped at the last minute by Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs.  I was a little bit upset about this, as I had heard it wasn’t his best effort.  Not to mention the fact that I am incredibly selfish.  Much to my dismay, I believe in the democratic system we live in so went along for the jaunt.  Even so, the thought of starting up my own film dictatorship did cross my mind.  As did the thought of taking inspiration from my own personal favourite dictator, by kidnapping a film director to make a movie for me.  Good old Kim Jong Il you commie fool!

Alas, Micmacs it was. 8.30 at the Barbican centre and there was quite a turnout.  14 in fact, so well done all.  And in typical English fashion, we were quickly up the bar ordering Malteasers and booze faster than you could say ‘Micmacs à tire-larigot’.  With snacks, booze and tickets in hand, we made our way into the theatre.

Now I am all for supporting independent cinemas and film, but I have to admit that I am a sucker for a multiplex.  The perfectly positioned seats, the large screens, the surround sound and what not.  Heaven.  But don’t blame me for this, blame the society we live in, but as I walked into the cinema it instantly struck me as having the appearance of a university lecture hall.  I thought the screen was too far away and there were no cup holders.  NO FREAKING CUP HOLDERS, I TELL YOU!  But once I sat down in those comfy seats and only had to sit through a few minutes of commercials, I was more than happy to be in an independent “fleapit” to enjoy Micmacs.

 

Prior to coming tonight, I did some research and was intrigued to see the film as it only came about after Jean-Pierre Jeunet abandoned his adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi due to budgetary conflicts.  Jeunet said he needed $85,000,000 to tell the story of a boy in a boat with a tiger.   The studio said “non”.  Jeunet said “Au revior” and wrote Micmacs instead.  Pretty impressive seeing as it has taken me almost 3 weeks to finish two recaps of Lost.

Now first things first, and the answer to the question which we almost went to war over is “non”.  Audrey Tautou was NOT in this film!  Despite the Tautou argument, the general consenus and scores of the group varied from 6 out of 10 up to 8.5 out of 10.  There was a cheeky 7.7 out of 10 from Fabbri thrown in for good measure to give an average score of 7 out of 10.  Upon reflection, I feel my own mark of 6.5 out of 10 was unfair, as I thought Micmacs was a delightful little film and it’s occasional brilliance far outweighed whatever initial misgivings I might have had.

For those of you that didn’t see the film, the premise revolves around Bazil who is a victim of two arms companies.  One produced a landmine that killed his father, which subsequently sent his mother mad, and the other produced a bullet that has become lodged in his brain 30 years later and could kill him at any moment.  This in turn forces him on the streets where he is subsequently “adopted” by a family of weird and wonderful characters who want to help him get his revenge in a series of humorous capers.

Micmacs is at times amazingly inventive and visually quite stunning.   Jean-Paul Jeunet has to be one of the most artistically creative directors working today.  Even though they may appear simple to construct with minimal camera set-ups, there is nothing simple about the content of his scenes.  Whether it be the use of animation to show Bazil’s “random question” technique to stop himself from passing out.   Or putting real life thought bubbles into people’s heads, his use of editing and his well thought out compositions make him a standout director, in my opinion.

The acting is also particularly good from the whole cast.  Be it a minor comedic cameo from an airport security guard or our hero, Bazil, played by Dany Boon.  Boon’s performance is extravagant and has a youthful charm.  I couldn’t stop likening his performance to that from the silent movies of old and Charlie Chaplin in particular.  However, it is the supporting cast that really steal the show, with the odd-ball characters such as the uptight human cannonball or the contortionist who hides herself in fridges whenever she is scared.  My personal favourite is the African poet who has a flair with words in the worst situations.   He steals the scene in every one he is in.  Not forgetting the man who invents all kind of weird and wonderful contraptions out of junk.  One in particular had me laughing out loud, or “LOL’ing” if there are any kids reading.  Some of the best characters, however, are the sets.   The junkyard where the Micmacs live is so grandiose and contains so many nick-nacks, that you could probably look at it for hours and still find something new.

The initial problems I had with the film were down to pacing and my own expectations.  After the first 15-minutes I thought I was going to be watching one of the best films I had seen this year.  I could feel all the old magic of Amélie returning.  But for all the set pieces and quirky-ness the film inspires, it never really reaches the heights that you would come to expect if you have seen any of Jeunet’s previous work.   It just feels flat in places and like it never really gets into gear until the finale.  But like I said earlier, despite what I see as weaknesses in the film were more than made up by many of the films moments of ingenuity.  And after recent viewings of Precious and Brothers, it was quite refreshing to just see a nice uplifting, genuinely positive film in which the little guys win.

So my fellow fleapitters, I open the forum up to you.  Do you agree with anything I have said?  Disagree?  What were your thoughts on the film?  I will leave you with several questions to ponder…

*  Did you think the film was a case of style over substance or are his OTT techniques justified by the story?

*  Did it have anything serious to say about the buying and selling of arms?

*  In what ways was the film like or unlike any of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s previous films?

*  I said that Jeunet is one of the most visionary directors working today, can you think of anyone else that is equal or surpasses him?

*  Do you still think that it was Audrey Tautou on the video store?  Come on!  Really?
Right, until next time, I will bid you adieu.  The next Fleapit evening is on March 13th in Hackney and the theme is ‘Time Travel’.  Go to the voting section and vote for your choice of film.  So far Dreamcatchers is leading the way and my preferred options of Primer and Donnie Darko and languishing far behind.

Hmmm, I wonder if I still have Kim Jong Il’s number….

 

(first published over at http://www.electricfleapit.com)

Categories: Film, Reviews

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