Whimsical Comedy 'Micmacs' is like Spy Vs. Spy on film
Jeunet begins Micmacs with the kind of somber intensity of imagery that distinguished his World War I movie, A Very Long Engagement. In a bravura wordless opening, a French soldier in Africa steps on a land mine; then, thirty years later, his orphaned son, Bazil (comedian Dany Boon, looking like David Niven on a bender) is a video store clerk. While happily watching The Big Sleep, he is accidentally shot in the head by a criminal on the street.
With the bullet still lodged in his brain, Bazil is eventually released from the hospital to earn his meager living as a street mime. According to Anatole France, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread,” but that’s what this little tramp is reduced to. He decides to take revenge on the CEOs of the two weapons manufacturers who ruined his life. Conveniently, their grand offices are located right across the street from each other.
This sounds grim, but the tone of Micmacs rapidly lightens, becoming more Amélie-like. Jeunet tries to resist creeping Amélization by setting much of the film in a junkyard, where Bazil finds refuge with a quirky fellowship of stereotypical Parisian misfits (including a goateed artist, a contortionist, and a human cannonball). Because this is a Jeunet movie, however, it’s a fabulously French-looking junkyard, the dump of Baron Haussmann’s dreams. Bazil conspires—aided by his ex-video clerk’s grasp of plot twists and his new friends’ reconfigured equipment—to bloodlessly goad the two merchants of death into ruining each other. Countless sight gags ensue—all clever, some astonishing—as multinational corporate technology is outfoxed by old-fashioned French miserliness.