Tag Archives: French

LIST CANDIDATE: ZAZIE DANS LE METRO (1960)

Zazie dans le Metro has been promoted onto the List of the 366 Weirdest Films ever made. Comments are closed on this post. Please visit the official Zazie dans le Metro Certified Weird entry.

DIRECTED BY: Louis Malle

FEATURING: Catherine Demongeot, , Vittorio Caprioli, Carla Marlier, Annie Fratellini, Yvonne Clech, Antoine Roblot, Jacques Dufilho, Hubert Deschamps

PLOT: Young Zazie goes to Paris and stays with her exotic dancer uncle; the only thing she wants to see is the Metro, but the workers are on strike, so she explores the city instead.

Still from Zazie dans le Metro (1970)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: It might make the List thanks to its insane, anarchic soul. A minor character casually kills a waiter by firing a woman’s high-heeled shoe at him, and a parrot transforms into a dog when it’s sprayed with seltzer water; something of this sort happens in just about every detail-packed frame of the film.  Zazie’s transvestite uncle proclaims the film’s manifesto: “All Paris is a dream, Zazie is a reverie, and all this is a reverie within a dream…”

COMMENTS: Raymond Queneau’s 1959 comic novel “Zazie dans le Metro” was a surprise sensation in France; with its wordplay, neologisms and nonsense passages, it earned the author comparisons to a French James Joyce.  When Louis Malle decided to adapt it, he wanted to fracture the language of film in the same way that Queneau twisted words.  Malle used a constant barrage of editing and camera tricks as his main strategy for achieving this goal: speeding up and slowing down the film (sometimes within the same shot), having people unexpectedly pop into and out of the frame, and using rear projection effects and tricks of perspective.  There’s a shot where Zazie’s uncle talks to her as she sits on his right, and then the camera seamlessly swings around to show her now seated on his left; in another bit, one speaker in a conversation inexplicably appears in blackface in a reaction shot lasting under a second.  These editing pranks fit perfectly with the movie’s absurd scenarios: this is a film where the protagonists climb the Eiffel Tower and find a sea captain and a shivering polar bear at the top.  As she wanders about Paris, Zazie encounters a strange cast of characters, starting with her uncle (an artiste who dances in drag) and his wife Albertine (who has a mysterious power to hypnotize men with her beauty), and eventually including a dirty old man, an amorous widow with white and lavender hair, a parrot (who complains about the other characters’ yakking) and the aforementioned polar bear, among other eccentric denizens of Paris (the city is virtually a character itself).  Zazie almost has the form of a satire Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: ZAZIE DANS LE METRO (1960)

SATURDAY SHORT: ORANGINA COMMERCIAL

Orangina has produced a series of humorous commercials featuring anthropomorphic birds, mammals, reptiles, and so on. In these commercials the drink is used for just about everything from a floor cleaning solution to aftershave. The focus, which is very apparent in this commercial, seems to be on mocking the role of sex in advertising.

CONTENT WARNING: This short contains brief, animated nudity and suggestive cross-species sexuality.

CAPSULE: FAQ: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (2004)

DIRECTED BY: Carlos Atanes

FEATURING: Xavier Tort, Anne Céline Auche, Manuel Solás, Marta Timón, Anna Diogene

PLOT:  A mute male slave’s involvement with romance and rebel pornographers lands him in trouble in a sex-free future ruled by a totalitarian matriarchy.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (2004)


WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: After producing a series of wildly experimental shorts in the 1990s (three of the most twisted of which were anthologized for the collection Codex Atanicus), Spanish filmmaker Carlos Atanes scaled back the surrealism for his feature debut, FAQ.  While plenty of weirdness remains (it’s hard to argue that a movie that casually drops dialogue like “unwrap the cat, we’re taking it with us” and includes a plotline regarding “architectural castration” doesn’t push the boundaries of normality), it’s stretched more thinly than in the shorts: it’s like drinking skim milk after having become accustomed to whole.

COMMENTS: “Failure is inevitable,” concedes a rebel, “but it is our duty to keep trying.”  He’s come to recruit Nono, a mute sound collector who’s never far away from his phallic microphone, to record some bird songs for the resistance’s archive of vanishing natural sounds; their ultimate dream is to someday record a breathing human female.  The quote, however, could just as easily apply to the scrappy spirit of independent cinema FAQ embodies.  As a philosophical dystopian science fiction, it’s not entirely successful: it frequently lags dramatically, especially in a languorous episode in the woods; with minimal sets and cheap-looking green screen effects, it struggles at times to hide its budgetary limitations; and it stumbles into a reality-bending non-resolution of an ending.  But the sincerity and professionalism of the production shines through, and the movie shows enough crazy imagination and intelligence to make you forgive its flaws, both budgetary and dramatic.  Some of the weirdest bits in this pretty weird feature involve the Internet porn of the future; adult actresses remain fully clothed at all times, and since human contact is verboten in the Brave New World, a woman touching a man’s bare chest is the height of salaciousness.  For reasons unknown, this forbidden erotica is created in an Continue reading CAPSULE: FAQ: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (2004)

81. ENTER THE VOID (2009)

“Q: How would you define the film’s genre?
A: Psychedelic Melodrama.”–Gaspar Noé, Enter the Void Cannes pressbook

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Gaspar Noé

FEATURING: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta

PLOT: Oscar is a drug-dealer living in Tokyo with his stripper sister.  One day he is shot and killed during a deal inside a bar called “The Void.”  He spends the rest of the movie as a silent ghost, floating around Tokyo and observing his sister and friends, while simultaneously hallucinating and remembering the details of his life.

Still from Enter the Void

BACKGROUND:

  • Noé wrote preliminary scripts for Enter the Void as early as 1994; the screenplay was consider to expensive to produce until the director’s 2002 success with Irréversible made it appear commercially viable.
  • Star Nathaniel Brown, a non-actor, was chosen because of his physical resemblance to lead Paz de la Huerta and because he was interested in directing.  As someone with no acting ambitions, Noé presumed Brown would not be upset by the fact that his face is only seen once in the film, briefly in a mirror.
  • Visual perfectionist Marc Caro supervised the set designs.
  • The 100 page script indicated the action and described the visual effects, but very little dialogue was scripted; the actors improvised most of their lines.
  • The paintings Alex is shown working on in the film were actually painted by Luis Felipe Noé, the director’s father.
  • The original run time of the film at its Cannes debut was 163 minutes.  Post production and editing continued after this debut, and, as completed in 2010, the final run time of the film (which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2010) as screened in the U.S. is about 140 minutes.  There is a longer version of the film, however, including a 17 minute sequence where Oscar believes he has woken up in the morgue; this segment occupies reel 7 of 9 reels, and for American screenings the film was simply shown with reel 7 omitted.  The extended cut is available on French DVD releases.
  • Noe instructed theaters that the film should be run at 25 frames per second rather than the usual 24 frames (this fact accounts for some of the discrepancies in listed running times).
  • At the Cannes premier there were no opening or closing credits.  The film began on a closeup of the none sign reading “enter” and ended with the words “the void.”
  • Noé got the idea for the film form watching Robert Montgomery’s noir The Lady in the Lake while on a magic mushroom trip.  Like Enter the Void, Lady in the Lake is filmed entirely from a first-person point of view (actually, in Void the POV is usually from about a foot behind Oscar’s head, though at other times we see events through his eyes).
  • Tokyo was chosen as the location of the film partly because Japan’s strong ant-drug laws would make the actions of the police more believable, partly because Noé believed the city, with its abundance of neon, had a “druggy mood.”
  • Pioneering acid guru Timothy Leary used to read “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” to voyagers undergoing LSD trips in an attempt to steer the experience in a spiritual direction.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The opening DMT trip, with it’s multicolored mandalas, floating planetoids, and neon tentacles seems hard to top, but it merely sets the mood.  It’s the pornographic “Love Hotel” scene, with its parade of rutting couples with mystically glowing genitalia, that really impresses itself on the mind’s eye.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: As the most impressive and eye-splintering acid trip movie of the decade (by a wide margin), Enter the Void gets an automatic pass onto the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time. The fact that the protagonist is dead throughout most of the movie doesn’t hurt its chances one bit.  But the clincher, the sure sign that the movie is weird, is the walkouts.  Less than halfway through the screening I saw, the sexagenarian couple who had stumbled into the film by accident (probably thanks to ad copy suggesting the movie was a sentimental ghost story about brotherly love that transcends death) walked out of the theater, leaving me alone with two same-sex couples with facial piercings and hair that glowed in the dark.


Original trailer for Enter the Void

COMMENTSEnter the Void is an exploitation piece masquerading as an art installation, Continue reading 81. ENTER THE VOID (2009)

CAPSULE: DON’T LOOK BACK [NE TE RETOURNE PAS] (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Marina de Van

FEATURING: Sophie Marceau, Monica Bellucci, Andrea Di Stefano

PLOT: As she struggles to write an autobiographical novel, a writer with childhood amnesia

Still from Don't Look Back [Ne te retourne pas] (2009)

finds that everything she sees—her apartment, her husband’s face, and even her own image in the mirror—is changing into something unfamiliar.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  The sophomore effort by rising bizarre star Marina de Van arrives as a slight disappointment.  The opening segments are disquieting without being bang-up weird, and by the end the mystery is resolved too completely, leaving nothing to linger in the mind.

COMMENTSDon’t Look Back mines the psychological terrain of jamais vu: the strange feeling you get when you enter a room you’ve been in hundreds of times and everything suddenly looks different, or when you look at the face of the person you’ve slept next to for a decade and see a stranger.  Sophie Marceau begins as Jeanne, the woman who finds that her kitchen furniture has been rearranged, the Paris city streets are no longer familiar, and her husband and children are making strange hand gestures when she’s not looking.  Initially she just seems paranoid, but the incidents keep building until finally her entire family has been replaced by different actors whom she doesn’t recognize, and we’re convinced there’s something seriously amiss inside Jeanne’s mind.  The breaking point comes when she looks into the mirror and sees an unfamiliar face staring back at her—on her left side, she still looks like Sophie Marceau, but the right side of the image is the face of Monica Bellucci.  Based on a clue she finds in a photo, Jeanne (now being played by Bellucci rather than Marceau) travels to an Italian village where she finds herself in a situation that’s almost the reverse of Paris: she recognizes the faces she sees as those of her husband, mother, etc., but no one she encounters seems to have a clue as to who she is.   It’s an intriguing premise, and the film is sincere, well-executed, and clever—and it’s also one of those movies where, by the end, you’re puzzled why it’s turned out merely solid rather than exceptional.  Part of the problem is the pace.  The movie starts slow, and keeps piling up weird incidents long after we’ve gotten the point that something’s cracked inside Jeanne and are anxious to get moving towards some answers.  The use of horror movie music cues to inform us that something uncanny is taking place is overdone and gauche, almost to the point of parody.  Containing two episodes of traumatically interrupted intercourse and more than a hint of incest, the movie flirts with ideas of sexual repression and perversion that, in the end, turn out to have nothing to do with Jeanne’s psychology.  And although the movie gets into a nice weird groove in the run up to the finale, where Jeanne now seems to be turning from Bellucci into a third actress at a wild village party, the script explains itself too completely by the end.  Although the solution to the mystery is intellectually satisfying, it doesn’t provide the emotional chills and thrills it should.  Looking back on the “clues” scattered through the earlier parts of the film, you realize that many of them didn’t add up; they were just arbitrary strange occurrences that let you know something was off but didn’t assist you to guess what it was, and so you feel cheated.  That said, the ending is unexpected and should keep you interested enough to keep watching.  The half Marceau/half Bellucci effect is truly novel and uncanny.  And the performances by the two French beauties are superlative: Marceau sets up the character, but it’s remarkable how Bellucci picks her up mannerisms so that you never question that this is the same character inhabiting two different bodies (to a lesser extent, the same compliment can be applied to Andrea Di Stefano and Thierry Neuvic, the two men who play Jeanne’s husband).  The end result is not a disaster, but given everything the movie apparently has going in its favor, it’s underwhelming.

De Van’s previous film was In My Skin [Dans Ma Peau] (2002), a shocking and mysterious portrait of a woman’s obsessive self-mutilation.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a traumatic and reductive incident from Marceau/Bellucci’s past is to blame—hence the title—which makes the entire film feel like the laborious setup for a dopey Twilight Zone twist.”–Mike D’Angelo, Onion A.V. Club (Cannes screening)

CAPSULE: MARTYRS (2008)

DIRECTED BY: Pascal Laugier

FEATURING:  Morjana Alaoui, Mylène  Jampanoï, Catherine Bégin, Robert Toupin, Patricia Tulasne

PLOT: A girl ventures into unknown territory when she helps her lover, a former torture victim,

Still

seek revenge on her one-time captors, in this unusual, bloody tale of madness and sadism.

WHY IT  WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  You may have heard incomplete descriptions of Martyrs in the media or by word of mouth.  Hushed references and whispered gossip might make it sound like a snuff movie, a sado-masochistic tableau, or a scandalous exploration of taboos.  It is none of these things. While Martyrs is a heavy, very violent film with a grim story, it is not a snuff movie or a sensational expose of torture.  It is an offbeat, horrifying thriller, and nothing more.

COMMENTS: When Anna (Alaoui) and her lover Lucie (Jampanoï) embark on a mission of revenge against Lucie’s childhood torturers, the situation quickly spirals out of control.  The couple locates Lucie’s alleged abductors, but did they find the right people?  Lucie is stalked and victimized by the spectre of the mutilated sister she had to leave behind, and Anna is not so sure where the truth lies.  In the process of exacting retribution the landscape changes dramatically and Anna is swept into an incomprehensible morass of hell on earth.

I’m so underwhelmed!  I was expecting a real stick of dynamite, but instead, I got one of those Fourth of July smoldering snake novelties.  Movie site rumors and an ongoing debate over whether or not Martyrs amounts to little more than “torture porn” made me expect a wild ride.  I had hoped to see the ultimate horror movie, or at least something mindlessly vulgar and sensational, but no dice.

What I got was an extremely well-shot, conventionally produced, offbeat story.  Unfortunately, it consists of two loosely linked plot sequences which, once combined, don’t amount to a sum greater than their parts.  Nor do they deliver any sort of soul stirring revelation.  Ho hum.

I found Martyrs to be intriguing, but, well, kinda boring.  Maybe even a little tedious in places.  Continue reading CAPSULE: MARTYRS (2008)

CAPSULE: HOME (2008)

DIRECTED BY: Ursula Meier

FEATURING: , Olivier Gourmet, Madeleine Budd, Kacey Mottet Klein, Adélaïde Leroux

PLOT:  The idyllic existence of an isolated family is shattered by the re-opening of an abandoned highway that runs through their front yard.

Still from Home (2008)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Despite the absurd rot at its core, Home is structurally sound; but it’s too low-key and lacking in zing to be counted among the weirdest movies of all time.

COMMENTS:  There’s not much plot to Home—a highway opens in a family’s front yard, the fumes and endless noise bug them, and they eventually put cinder blocks and cement over their windows to keep the outside world out. The idea could have packed a compact wallop in a short; but here, there’s ninety minutes to fill up. Promising first time director Ursula Meier saturates the empty spaces with acting; thankfully, she has Isabelle Huppert and a pro cast on her side. Home will work best for those who find the carefully observed intimate details of other people’s family lives fascinating, but the leisurely pacing will make this thin allegory something of a grind for others. Early scenes establish the bucolic Eden that’s about to be paved over: the family plays hockey in the abandoned highway, watches TV on a couch outdoors, and bathes together. (Meier makes a major point of the family’s unselfconscious, unsexual nudity; Huppert is the only one in the film who keeps her clothes on). External pressure on the happy family arrives when the highway reopens (allowing Meier the opportunity for a nicely absurd parody of the “incredibly specific news broadcast” movie cliché: the only radio station the family receives focuses exclusively and obsessively on the new thoroughfare, tracking the progress of the first motorist as if he were a national celebrity). Amusingly, at first the brood attempts to go about its normal routines despite the intrusion of the motorway; college-age Judith continues her full-time bikini sunbathing career (to the delight of passing truckers), and the two younger kids dodge cars as they cross the highway on their way to school each morning. Eventually the pressure starts to get to the family unit; the incessant freeway noise causes sleepless nights, and fatalistic middle child Marion takes to wearing a homemade gas mask and filling her younger brother’s head with tales of how the gasoline fumes will stunt his growth. Father Michel (Gourmet) reasonably suggests relocation, but mother Marthe (Huppert) digs in to preserve the homestead. Under stress the family’s behavior takes a turn for the bizarre (especially Mom’s). When they decide to wall up the house, the heat inside becomes stifling and the air stale; they spend most of their time sleeping, lacking the strength to do more. The film’s symbolism is open-ended, which can be a very good thing, but which works better when coupled with a stronger narrative. Critics seem to be focusing on the happy pastoral family vs. poisonous industrial society theme and the environmentalist subtext, but there’s also a metaphor about growing up at work here. At each stage of the story, the tone reflects one of the three children’s perceptions of family life. At first there is a childish innocence and fun to the home, with nothing of too much importance existing outside it. The outside world (represented by the highway) begins to encroach on the family sanctuary and penetrate its four walls, reflecting the anxiety and disillusionment of the early teen years. Finally, the home becomes a stifling prison run by madmen whose walls must be torn down in order to become an adult.

This Home is often confused with Home (2008), a mother-daughter cancer drama, and Home (2009), an environmental documentary narrated by Glenn Close. I have no theory to offer as to why the filmmakers gave their French language film shot in Bulgaria an English title.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…the engaging, darkly funny, surreal story of what happens when people who have thrived by keeping civilization at a safe distance suddenly find themselves pushed right back into its headlights… an absurdist pit stop on the order of ‘Bagdad Café,’ but with more edge and less charm.”–Janice Page, The Boston Globe (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: BLUE BEARD [BARBE BLEUE] (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Catherine Breillat

FEATURING: Lola Créton, Dominique Thomas

PLOT: A young girl from a poor family is married off to a local aristocrat with a blue beard and

Still from Bluebeard [Barbe Bleue] (2009)

a reputation for murdering his brides.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTBlue Beard‘s weirdness, while detectable, is mild; and, despite its tragedy and enigmatic tone, as a film its impact is surprisingly slight.

COMMENTSBlue Beard is not merely a period piece in setting, with its authentic medieval gowns and tapestries and frescoes and gloomy stone castles, but it’s also a throwback to an older, subtler age of storytelling with its slow, clam, and detached style.  The primary actors—Lola Créton as the doomed child bride and Dominique Thomas as the unexpectedly sympathetic ogre—never raise their voices, and their expressions remain staid and repressed: obscure emotions flit across their faces, but their subtexts never fully emerge into the light of day.  Even the nobleman’s trademark chromatic bristles—the mark of his supernatural origin—look black and gray in the film, only showing a slight steely blue cast in just the right light, when viewed in private with the luxury to examine it.  Pacing is slow, camerawork languorous.  The flatness of the film serves two purposes: it gives us the freedom to project our own interpretations on the characters, and it causes a few key images to suddenly burst into three dimensions and startle us, like pages from a children’s pop-up book.  Director Breillat takes a weird approach in revealing the fate of Bluebeard’s previous wives, and the effect is successfully memorable and eerie.  The enigmatic final image, a psuedo-Biblical shot that strangely casts the young girl as Salome while effectively encapsulating the spectrum of her unresolved emotions, also fairly pops.  Breillat layers a framing story on top of the fairy tale wherein one little girl is reading the story to her more sensitive and easily frightened sister.  It’s an interesting directorial choice, but it would be hard to claim that this device is entirely successful.  In terms of pacing, it at least provides a little respite from the plodding medieval segments; thematically, the conceit Continue reading CAPSULE: BLUE BEARD [BARBE BLEUE] (2009)

66. THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP [La science des rêves] (2006)

Mrs. Miroux: “So, what did you think?”

Stephanie: “I adore it!”

Mrs. Miroux: “Really? I’ve always found it rather strange.”

Stephanie: “That’s what’s good.”

DIRECTED BY: Michel Gondry

FEATURING: Gael García Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg,

PLOT: Stephane is a young artist and inventor from Mexico, a man who has always had trouble distinguishing dreams from waking life; he is lured to Paris by his mother with the promise of a “creative” job that turns out to be a position as a typesetter at  a company that makes nudie calendars. He slowly falls in love with his next door neighbor Stephanie, who is also a creative type, an amateur composer and toy designer. Their developing relationship becomes complicated and eventually melancholy because Stephane can’t tell if Stephanie returns his affections; whenever he meets her, he can’t even be sure if it’s in a dream or reality.

Still from The Science of Sleep (2006)

BACKGROUND:

  • The Science of Sleep was Michel Gondry’s feature fiction followup to 2004’s Certified Weird Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  It was Gondry’s first feature screenplay.
  • Gondry stated that the character of Stephane was about 80% based on himself (the other 20% coming from Gael García Bernal’s interpretation of the character). Many of the dreams depicted in the film came from Gondry’s own dreams; the scene where Stephane has giant, cartoon-like hands came from a recurring nightmare the director had as a child. In the commentary on the DVD Gondry also implies that the romantic trauma Stephane goes through in the script was inspired by a real life unrequited love. Gondry also filmed the picture in the house he grew up in a s a child.
  • The director said in an interview that he got some of the inspiration for the film’s look from Communist propaganda films aimed at children.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The two would-be lovers on a gray felt horse with button eyes in a white boat with a forest inside, sailing off on a cellophane sea.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: The Science of Sleep is nearly a straight shot of surrealism masquerading as a romantic comedy, under the cover of dreams. In this movie, it’s the reality-sequences that interrupt and inform the dream narrative, not the other way around.


Original trailer for The Science of Sleep

COMMENTS: In the very first scene of The Science of Sleep, Stephane’s subconscious,  Continue reading 66. THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP [La science des rêves] (2006)

MICMACS [MICMACS À TIRE-LARIGOT] (2009)

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.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“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.