The Glasgow Film Festival has literally opened with a bang, courtesy of the Scottish premier of Jean–Pierre Jeunet’s (Amelie, Delicatessen) Micmacs. The film is a comedy centring on the arms trade (is that even possible? Only Jeunet could make it so) starring the inimitable Danny Boon as Bazil. To say Bazil is unfortunate is an understatement of ridiculous proportions: his father was killed by a landmine, and he was himself the victim of a freak accident which results in a bullet being permanently lodged in his brain, with the potential to kill him at any given moment.
If this is beginning to sound uncharacteristically depressing for a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, then don’t be fooled. The film’s real focus is on the dysfunctional family of scrap yard workers (featuring Jeunet regulars Dominique Pinot and Yoland Moreu, amongst others) into which Bazil is adopted, and the endurance and faultless loyalty of friendship, even in the most difficult of situations.
Whilst there is undoubtedly a political edge to the movie, this never eclipses the story, with Jeunet instead opting to use his views on the weapons trade as a source of humour, poking fun at the ridiculousness of it all, and never forcing opinions down his audience’s collective throats.
Danny Boon is simply incredible. Simultaneously evoking Chaplin and Tati, he has the incredibly emotive face of a true star of the silent era, and the physical humour to match. Jeunet plays homage to the golden age of silent films throughout, never resorting to dialogue when an image could tell the same story ten times as quickly and a thousand times as effectively. The film is laden with references to his past movies which will reward repeat viewing, but at no point does it seem like Micmacs is in the shadow of its predecessors. In actuality, this may be Jeunet’s most complete film to date (only time will tell) and is certainly one of his best. As always, the success of the film, like most of his other movies, lies in his ability to focus on the simplest of human emotions (namely love) and his skill for wrapping these up in a world which bridges fantasy and reality seamlessly.
The visuals, in particular the sets and locations, are breathtaking, merging the perfection of Paris à la Amelie with dark, surreal interiors reminiscent of Delicatessen. Jeunet’s flair for the image is evident throughout, so much so that any frame picked at random from the movie would immediately identify its creator.
The best thing about all of this is that it seems so effortless. Jeunet, who was in attendance for the screening, summed this up far better than I could ever hope to: “I started [making movies] when I was eight. It’s like eating or drinking to me.” Jeunet has been marginalised in the past by critics, particularly in his native France, due to the overwhelming popularity he has achieved since the release of Amelie. This completely misses the point: if art is popular, is it not still art?
Jeunet’s art is celluloid, and Micmacs is a perfect example of the ease with which he decorates his canvas. This film is not to be missed, and as with all great movies, should be seen on the big screen rather than waiting for the DVD. Go and see it now, in fact. You won’t regret it, and I guarantee you will leave with a smile (and probably want to take the next flight to Paris, too).