Why, oh why did Sony Pictures Classics release Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs in June? You can’t really call it “The Best Film of 2010” with over six months to go, but the temptation still lingers. Certainly it’s an early contender, this delightful yet dark do-it-yourself revenge romp from the director of Amelie and A Very Long Engagement. But even if 2010 really spikes in quality over the next few months and Micmacs gets pushed off of this critic’s year-end ‘Top Ten’ list, that’s no reason not to recommend the film as heavily as possible. It’s definitely the best film of the year so far.
Most of the time a film critic’s job is to warn audiences away from the refuse, but Jeunet’s worlds take refuse and use it to craft a special blend of magic. Micmacs stars Dany Boon (Joyeux Noël) as Bazil, a poor schlub whose life has twice been ripped asunder by weapons. His father died attempting to defuse a mine in North Africa, forcing his mother into the madhouse and Bazil into a life of oppression, a life which almost comes to an end when a stray bullet gets lodged in his brain. The doctors can’t remove the bullet without turning Bazil into a vegetable, but the bullet also threatens to kill him at any moment of any day, and he suffers from sudden seizures that can only be abated by smacking the bullet back into place.
Naturally, since this is a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, Bazil’s life takes a sudden upturn just as he hits his lowest ebb. Since every second could be his last, he starts living moment to moment, and soon falls in with an informal family of eccentrics living in a wonderland of a trash heap. Bazil’s newfound family all has their little quirks, like Calculette (Marie-Julie Baup), who can perform complex mathematical equations in her head, or Fracasse (Dominique Pinon), the human cannonball, or La Môme Caoutchouc (Julie Ferrier), a contortionist with a fondness for hiding in refrigerators. But Bazil, and by extension Jeunet, sees endless possibilities in this group of misfits and soon they go to work exacting a clever makeshift plot to bring the two weapons manufacturers who ruined Bazil’s life – and the lives of millions of others around the world – to karmic justice.
Jeunet’s films have always been about the conflict between optimism and cynicism, and Micmacs is no exception. Bazil’s roundabout schemes rival Amelie’s in their cleverness and innocence. In fact, Micmacs feels a lot like a mirror version of Amelie: instead of bringing joy to others through crazy schemes, Bazil takes the opposite tract and uses his boundless imagination to bring about the comeuppance of deserving monsters. The result is a film of greater consequence than much of Jeunet’s previous work yet one that retains the childlike wonder. Repeatedly throughout the film posters for Micmacs appear littered throughout the landscape, and usually posters of the image currently presented on the screen. The world of Micmacs clearly supports Bazil’s quest, and the audience gleefully concurs.
Micmacs is fully aware that there is cruelty in the world, but also that cruelty is constantly balanced by love, devotion and family. It’s not a message film. People who profit from human suffering have their priorities out of whack, but Jeunet doesn’t think we need to be convinced of that. None of Bazil’s machinations are anywhere near as cruel as what his quarries do to themselves once Bazil turns them against each other. Micmacs might be a call to action, since nothing is ever accomplished until somebody takes arms, but more than that it’s a delightful entertainment, funny, romantic and in its own way kind of perfect. Jeunet returns from an extended hiatus with another film that belongs in his distinctive oeuvre, as familiar as a warm blanket and twice as comforting. Who cares if it’s too early to call it ‘The Best Movie of the Year?’ Either way, Micmacs is about as good as movies get.
CraveOnline rating: 9.5 out of 10