Sunday April 4, 2010
Movie review: Micmacs à tire-larigot (French, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Having been a huge fan of European cinema, the only other recent European director who has left an indelible impression in me is Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the French director who won rave worldwide reviews for Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, which was known, more popularly as, Amélie. (The other director is, incidentally, Guillermo del Toro).
It’s ironic that my favorite film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet is not Amélie; it’s Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement) that he made 3 years after Amélie, with the same lead star, Audrey Tautou (it also had delightfully short cameos by Marion Cotillard and Jodie Foster). Watch it, if you haven’t – a MUST watch!
So, when I heard about his next film, I was really curious. It is called, ‘Micmacs à tire-larigot‘ or simply, ‘Micmacs’, in English.
It has the same visual splendor associated with his films – an almost sepia-toned cinematography, with excessive yellowy pastel shades smeared all over; incredibly nuanced and intricate camera angles and a completely preposterous plot.
To be honest, the plot point is not as impactful as the earlier two films, but the film is worth just for its hyper-imaginative visual and narrative style. The basic plot is interesting enough but you do not empathize with it as much as you do in the earlier films – a man seeks revenge on 2 weapons manufacturers; one which killed his father (through a land mine) and the other, the owner of a bullet still inside his head!
The man (Dany Boon) gets help from an odd bunch of tramp’ish people living under a garbage yard and they live in completely whimsical style unique to Jean-Pierre. The characters are bizarre and funny – a failed Brazilian writer, an unsung human cannonball, a silent eccentric inventor, an amazing human calculator and the best, a contortionist, who chooses to call herself, ‘I am a sensitive soul in a flexible body’.
The plot can take a walk – for Indians, it’s almost like the plot of the Malayalam film, ‘Ramoji Rao Speaking’ (Arangetra Velai, in Tamil and Hera Pheri, in Hindi), where the characters force the cross-talk and connection with the bad guys, unlike the Indian version, where the cross-talk and connection happen by chance. The plot is really not the point here – it is the little nuances that go a really long way.
One of the weapons manufacturers is obsessed with, well, weapons. And while leaving for work, asks his breakfast-eating son, ‘Nagasaki?’. Son responds, ’17 kilotonnes’ and gets a pat!
Dany (named Bazil, in the film) is eavesdropping on the roof of a man when he feels like sneezing. It’s a tricky situation and he cannot afford to sneeze; so he starts to distract himself with imagining completely pointless things. Like, ‘Zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes?’, ‘Oh, pygmies! Are there dwarfs among pygmies?’ and so on. All these are visually depicted too, in corny but brilliant short strokes!
The film is full of such amazing nuances that it is difficult for me to list all of them – the film is worth watching twice just to make note of them! My personal favorite is a diversion tactic Dany plans with his friends to get into one of the weapons manufacturer’s mansion without being seen by the security camera. So, what do they do?
They hire a prostitute and her boyfriend to make love in an open-windowed apartment opposite the mansion. The couple make love, needless to add. The security guard gapes at them via his security camera now focused on the open window, so that our motley crew can sneak in to the mansion, unwatched. The contortionist is hoisted into the room and she helpfully inserts a drugged sugar pill into his coffee in the most incredible fashion ever! It is difficult to even explain such scenes because they are precisely as bizarre as I describe them – but, on screen, it is sheer magic.
The final scene involving YouTube is a nice little touch that brings the plot almost to reality, away from its fantasy-like situation and has been shot brilliantly.
If you see both Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain and Un long dimanche de fiançailles, there is no doubt that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet seems to have just one overbearing visual style. It sure seems cliched, but on the other hand, it is so unique that it seems like his trademark – something that I’ve not seen in any other director’s work and one in which Jean-Pierre seems to have an endless supply of gags that I would love him to make similar movies…endlessly!
Poster courtesy: Screenrush