Micmacs: A Tire Larigot

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French Satire

French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet is becoming more and more eccentric and ambitious in choice of subject matter. His latest, “Micmacs: A Tire Larigot,” an uneven socio-political satire about a bunch of global arms dealers and sellers, displays his signature strategy of intense stylization and bright color-codes.
 
 
If you like the Oscar-nominated Amelie, which broke box-office records in the U.S. for a foreign-language film, you may like "Micmacs," a fast-paced, structurally messy spoof, which benefits immensely from its talented ensemble. The cast is headed by Danny Boon, one of the most popular and busiest actors in France, whose expressive face, manners, and gestures recall the great comedians, Chaplin, Buster Keaton, with a touch of his great compatriot Jacques Tati.
 
It is not easy to summarize the plot, which moves quickly from one setting to another and from one group of characters to another. The tale begins in April 1979, with a mine that suddenly explodes in the midst of the Moroccan desert. Cut to decades later and to another explosion outside a video store, one in which Bazil (Boon) is injured when a stray bullet lodges in his brain. 
 
We quickly realize that Bazil is a warm-hearted, well-meaning guy, who is clumsy, to say the least—he doesn't have much luck with weapons, which always seem to be around him. The first accident had made him an orphan, and the opening sequence describes his childhood with his young widow-mother. As for the second violent act, it holds him on the brink of sudden, instant death.
 
Released from the hospital after his accident, Bazil is homeless. Luckily, our inspired and gentle-natured dreamer is quickly taken in by a motley crew of junkyard dealers living in what could be described as a fairytale setting, say, a veritable Ali Baba's cave.
 
The group’s talents and skills, not to mention goals and aspirations are as surprising and inventive as they are diverse. Just their names, all making clear allusions to pop culture, reveal what a bunch of outsiders they are: Remington, Calculator, Buster, Slammer, Elastic Girl, Tiny Pete and Mama Chow.
Action kicks in, when one day, walking by two huge buildings, Bazil recognizes the logos of the weapons manufacturers that had caused all of his misfortune. Deluding himself that he is a man of action, Bazil sets out to take revenge. Since he cannot execute the vengeance by himself, he relies on the help of his faithful gang of wacky friends. Underdogs battling heartless industrial giants, the gang relives the battle of David and Goliath, defined by the imagination of a Chaplin or Keaton fantasy.
 
In interviews, Jeunet has said that the idea for “Mic Macs” originated during post-production on “The City of Lost Children” (co-directed with Marc Caro): “Wee edited in Saint-Cloud, next to the Dassault factories, and we often went to a restaurant where the Dassault engineers went to lunch, too. They were very straight-laced men, in suit and tie, with nice looking faces, but I couldn't help thinking they were creating and manufacturing incredible weapons to destroy and kill other human beings on the planet! It didn't seem to bother them very much!
 
As a satire of weapons manufacturers and junkyard dealers, “Micmacs” lacks the poignancy and gravitas of, say, Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece, “Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” but, then, few movies (American included) have been able to match Kubrick's wit level.
 
“Micmacs” is clearly not a movie about plot but a romp about a wild bunch of characters engage in foibles and other idiotic behavior, some of which is really funny. Indeed, the members represent a gang of scavengers, conceived as the toys and objects in Pixar’s animated “Toy Story” movies, who join forces in a (futile) battle against lethal, greedy and corrupt businessmen, well-groomed and elegantly dressed in chic suits with matching ties.
 
As always, Jeunet gives his film the look of a fable, with surreal images and a colorful scheme dominated by yellow, brown and green. The tempo of the picture is so fast that you often don’t have time to absorb and digest what you’re seeing, particularly when you depend on subtitles.  But I went along with the ride and was rewarded at the end.