On Monday evening I had the privilege to watch a special screening of Micmacs, originally launched here during Tribeca Film Festival. It was held inside a lecture hall at Columbia University and was followed by Q & A session with the one and only Jean Pierre Jeunet. That I would have the opportunity to be in the same room as the mastermind behind Amelie gave me all sorts of ticks and butterflies and I was grateful to be able to watch the film outside of Tribeca, considering it was sold out. First and foremost, thank you to the Zimblaman for hooking me up and making some awesome shit happen.
Micmacs was a visually gripping film, and its story leaned toward light-hearted action comedy with a slight tinge of moral-laden reality-checking tragic undertones. Political views were subtle if at all apparent, and left you feeling pretty damn good and giddy in the end.
As a boy, Bazil experienced the tragic death of his father, who tragically died during a search and destroy land mines raid. At the funeral Bazil engraves the logo of the arsenal company who created these bombs and will serve his life’s purpose as an adult. Years later, while tending to his job as a lowly video store cashier, Bazil becomes victim to a drive by where a gun set loose freakishly lands and shoots a bullet straight to his head. Miraculously enough Bazil stays alive, bullet still in tact in his noggin. He gets hold of the bullet made by an arsenal company competing with the folks that lead his father’s death. Now living jobless and without a home, he is discovered by a collective family living in a junk yard with the sole purpose of salvaging and repurposing, junk. These seven hysterically unique characters become his adopted family and the film goes on with the lone goal of seeking revenge and exposing the deceits of these two companies. A cartographer, a humanified calculator, a junkyard artist, an old time ex-prisoner, a record breaking human canonball, a contortionist, and a fairytale big mama figure all join forces as they formulate grand trickstersque schemes against the bad guys. The movie ultimately ends with lies and deceits exposed, thanks to video confessions and social media distribution, not violence and mass killings.
I will regrettably admit Micmacs didn’t meet up to my expectations of being the next big iconic Amelie. First of all, I had no idea Jeunet was responsible for both A Very Long Engagement and Alien Resurrection. Um, what was he thinking?? How can the man who made the greatness and sweetness that is Amelie be responsible to such cheese and its side affects such as Alien Resurrection? But I digress. Micmacs is very much in par with another movie he made in the 90s, Delicatessen. Both are cinematographically similar, both utilize a dark brown, earthy, industrial decay/debris, ominously rotting color palette and environment. Steam and smoke is prevalent in every other scene, the poor and lowly is romanticized and juxtaposed to the rich and corporate (more in Micmacs). Dreamy child-like imagination runs amok with playful and cute anecdotes between costume, facial expressions, object manipulation and character engagement, all the while emphasizing a dark and ominous energy throughout.
Jeunet himself is a sprightly round man with witty and sharp humor. He resembles an overgrown boy but with a more articulate brain. In speaking about his creative process, it seems there is much preparation involved in making of a film, almost to an obsessive level, with sketches, story boards of every scene, etc, but it also apparent is his ability to allow certain aspects, such as production design, to be wholehearted handed over to another individual with pure trust that it will turn out the way he envisioned. Political undertones are not a focus for the filmmaker, but a message is heard. He is highly influenced by other films and incorporates plenty references (none of which I was able to pinpoint) in this movie. Silence and Sound has always been of utmost importance, subtlety and lack of music is as much as focus as what defines its soundtrack. You’ll find many familiar faces in this movie with characters from Delicatessen and Amelie and others. He is most interested in character actors, folks with interesting faces that can play an exquisitely unique role.
Considering I am a non-film-buff I found it highly educational to hear a filmmaker, let alone my favorite filmmaker, speak about the making of his movie. It made me realize how NOT easy it is to make a feature film, especially if there is no budget for it. A movie this official takes a shit load of talented people and a whole lot of money. I’d like to make a challenge to anyone, including myself, to create a feature film with as little as $1000. Is that humanely possible?
I will also admit one issue I have with Jeunet and his movie. I’ve heard it before, that French folks are homophobes and racist, but it’s just not something that ever crossed my mind. And here, if only briefly, I was accosted with this stereotype. At one point in the movie, Bazil asks his posse to focus their gaze and pay attention. They are give him a questionable glance and after a moment of silence he affirms “No not GAYS, GAZE!”. That was bizarre to me. And I wondered how that translated from French. Also during Q&A I don’t know what it was regarding but he TOTALLY made a racist joke and not many people laughed. Ouch. Other than that he’s kind of wonderful.