Latest wacky masterpiece from Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet
It was not the first
time Bazil’s life was changed by the deadly products of the armaments industry.
When he was a child, his father, a French soldier, was killed by a land mine in
the Martian landscape of the Western Sahara.
Homeless and jobless after his discharge from the hospital, coincidence leads
Bazil to the street where two of the world’s largest weapon-makers are located.
The orchestral soundtrack swells, just like a Max Steiner score from golden-age
orchestra even appears briefly on the steps of the Art Deco edifice housing one
of the companies. His imaginative landscape shaped by the movies, the
apparition is a signal to Bazil. Like the hard-pressed heroes of old, he must
embark on a vengeance quest against powerful villains who have caused so much
the latest film by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, is in keeping with the
retro-now fantasy worlds he created in the astonishing City of Lost Children
and the delightful Amélie. The
setting is a palimpsest where artifacts of the past bleed without comment into
a present day with little cultural direction beyond the latest high-tech toys.
Most of the Parisian apartments are furnished in the style of Europe
between the world wars. The three-wheeled vehicles of postwar France share
the streets with sleek, contemporary light rail. The good people of the cast
look as if they shop in the funkiest resale shops on the continent.
Those good people
are the merry band of misfits who accept Bazil as one of their own. They have
established a subterranean society in the catacombs below a junkyard, a
cluttered twilight filled with objects salvaged and recycled from what passes
for civilization above. With a female contortionist who can curl up inside a
refrigerator and a dwarf who once worked as a human cannonball, they resemble a
happier version of the subculture in the 1930s film classic Freaks. References to other old movies
abound. Before his adoption into the society of scavengers, Bazil, silently
wandering the streets in shoes coming apart, recalls Charlie Chaplin’s tramp.
The many pantomime scenes suggest the droll comedy of French director Jacques
Tati. There is even a finger-poking nod to the Three Stooges and an
uncomfortably quiet dinner table scene out of Citizen Kane.
villains in Micmacs are a pair of
rival armaments tycoons. De Fenouillet, an old-school plutocrat, keeps a
collection of body parts from famous people, including the molar of Marilyn
Monroe and the eye of Mussolini, under glass bell jars. The younger Marconi,
part of the pseudo-hipster generation of Hollywood
titans and venture philanthropists, lives in sleek plasma-screen luxury. The
morality of their enterprises can be summed up by a corporate presentation
whose speaker boasts of being “the world leader in the field of fragmentation
bombs.” Kosovo, Afghanistan,
Somalia, Iraq, the diamond wars of Africa—de
Fenouillet and Marconi have profited from them all. Bazil and his new friends
are determined to bring them down.
The schemes they hatch are Rube Goldberg in their hilarious complexity as Bazil and company, a band of working-class outcasts, struggle against the cold rationality of giant corporations. The brilliance of Micmacs is that it turns a revolution of the little people into two hours of engaging entertainment.n