DIRECTED BY: Jean Pierre-Jeunet

FEATURING: Dany Boon, Julie Ferrier, Dominique Pinon, André Dussollier, Nicolas Marié

PLOT: After video store clerk Bazil gets a stray bullet to the head and survives, he joins

Still from Micmacs (2009)

up with a ragtag group of trash sorters who help him conspire in a prank war against rival arms manufacturers.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Micmacs is a sweet, whimsical, and slightly surreal comedy, but it never reaches truly bizarre status.  For the most part its story and characters make sense, all set in a world not exceedingly different from our own.

COMMENTS: Once again Jean-Paul Jeunet effortlessly slips his audience into an anachronistic, slightly off-color world with wacky characters and ingenious devices, and this time he even manages to work in some anti-war (or at least, anti-weapons) statements.  As a filmmaker his strengths reside in his fantastic visual aesthetic and dedication to interesting characters, but not necessarily effective storytelling.  These characteristics apply to Micmacs, as the story is interesting but confusingly structured and underdeveloped.  It takes a while to really come together, with several curt scenes following one right after the other until the fun fully starts when Bazil joins the energetic trash heap crew.  Once everything gets going, the movie becomes a very enjoyable and unpredictable comedy complete with goofy disguises, high-concept stratagems, and plenty of breaking and entering.

The characters are fun and detailed—quirky but not in the annoying “indie-cliche” way.  They all have their own talents and interests that lend them their nicknames, and there are some imaginative schemes that involve everyone working together and putting their specific skills to use in unexpected ways.  The cast is excellent, as everyone imbues his or her personage with emotion and a good dose of silliness.  Dany Boon exudes a sort of hapless confusion coupled with a go-to spirit, while Dominique Pinon manages to always stand out in anything.  Omar Sy has some of the best comedic moments as Remington, a wannabe anthropologist obsessed with idioms.  Julie Ferrier shines as the outspoken contortionist, and both Nicolas Marié and André Dussollier put in delightfully devious turns as the villainous CEOs.

While clearly the film is quite character-heavy, the ensemble works so well together that no one is lost in the shuffle, and the focus remains on Bazil to ground the story. The script is funny and lighthearted but not fluffy, and of course the visuals are breathtaking: it’s filmed in slight sepia hues with an array of innovative gadgets and home-made clothes, and everything has a very homey, lived-in feel.  The atmosphere is slightly surrealistic and kooky and the characters are instantly lovable. Incorporating a clear penchant for high-concept stratagems and offbeat humor, Micmacs is an unavoidably cute diversion from the real world with a few narrative weaknesses.


“Some of the extravagant visual eccentricity of [Jeunet’s] debut feature, ‘Delicatessen’ (still his best and strangest film), of which he was co-director, is echoed in the smoky streetscapes, weird mechanical gizmos and comic-grotesque human figures on display here.  But his pacing is more deliberate, almost classical in its precise calibration of cause and effect… the film roams and rambles and sometimes stalls, straining for a charm that should come effortlessly.”–A.O. Scott, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

NOTE: This review is published in a slightly different form at Film Forager.

7 thoughts on “MICMACS [MICMACS À TIRE-LARIGOT] (2009)”

  1. Most of the reviews I’ve read stress how cute, quirky, and (especially) “whimsical” this movie is. I sort of wish Jeunet would team up with Marc Caro again; the two Jeunet/Caro movies had that quirkiness, but there was also an undercurrent of darkness that cut the whimsy and balanced the pictures out. I’ll still see this, but I’m beginning to fear Jeunet may be becoming too fluffy for his own good.

  2. I entirely agree. I’ve got a huge soft spot for Jeunet though, even for Aliens Resurrection, and how many people can say that? But City Of Lost Children is a work of genius in my book, I LOVE it. The mad dancing hands of the conjoined sisters, the flea’s eye view, even the unnervingly convincing weeping of the children.
    Whilst I totally understand that for some people his recent output has been creeping towards the saccharine I still like it. This is odd, because in general “cute”, “heartwarming” films don’t really appeal to me. There’s something about Jeunet though; it’s as if his sheer love of what he’s doing manages to make it through.
    The review kind of confirmed what I was expecting but I’ll still watch it when it comes to dvd. Not living near an arty cinema we’re a bit restricted when it comes to seeing subtitled movies on the big screen. Plus as Alex says, Dominique Pinon…what a guy. Anyone else recall the short he was in where he trains his dog to go to work in his place and eventually is completely usurped by him?

  3. I love the darker and weirder Jeunet/Caro films as well, definitely, but my favorite is Amelie, so I am still drawn to the sweeter side of his work as a solo director. Micmacs is cute and quirky to be sure, but it isn’t sickeningly so, and it has a lot of really smart, funny moments that draw it away from being overly saccharine. I hope you guys like it when you see it!

    And Kat, I haven’t seen that short but it sounds pretty interesting! I’ll keep an eye out for it since I love Dominique Pinon.

  4. After a little hunting I found that it was a “very short”. It’s a promo for the Sci-Fi channel called “Human Suit”. It’s only about a minute long and will make owners of Jack Russell terriers nod knowingly.

  5. I finally got the chance to see this, and though I didn’t dislike it, I was slightly disappointed. Maybe it’s because of the high expectations I have for Jeunet. I didn’t find it to be “too whimsical,” but I wasn’t that involved with the movie. I spent more time admiring the complex stagings then I did rooting for the ragtag band to defeat the munitions magnates. There’s a lot going on in this film: tributes to silent slapstick comedy, intricate scams and capers, mechanical gizmos, political subtext, quirky characters, fantasy interludes inside the main character’s head. I didn’t think it all fit together quite right, and yet at the same time it felt too carefully controlled, so that the movie couldn’t ever really let loose and turn into something crazy and unhinged. If there had been more laughs it could have been very good, though.

  6. Yeah, I view this film as more of a goofy romp than a movie in its own right. My first thought was, “This is a very, very French version of Ocean’s 11.”

    I liked it, but it’s more of a not so straight-up caper than Jeunet’s other works. Oddness for fun and giggles, rather than the oddness with a heart that characterizes most of his other movies. Kind of a throwback to “Delicatessen,” which the movie has a call back to with Pinon recalling his saw playing.

    I liked it, and it’s certainly worth watching, but it’s more of a goofy way to spend a Sunday afternoon than a movie you will talk about later.

    I did think Marie-Julie Baup as Calculator was adorable.

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