Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s politically naïve but fairly entertaining anti-arms fantasia pits a motley crew of “salvagers” - misfits with special talents who scavenge and reuse the city’s detritus (they’d have made a good case study in Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I ) - against two thoroughly evil rival arms-dealers (played with relish by Nicolas Marie and the great Andre Dussolier). The two groups come into contact via Bazil (Dany Boon), a video store employee (he lip-synchs charmingly to Bogart and Bacall) who, as a kid, loses his father to a landmine, and, as an adult, gets left with a bullet in his skull following a street shooting. Bazil decides to revenge himself against the arms barons, and his new friends - who take him in when he loses both home and job following the shooting - are, it turns out, only too happy to help him.
Though all the trademark Jeunet tics and tricks are in evidence in Micmacs - manic pacing, saturated colour, actors’ faces looming out at the viewer - this is the first movie of the director’s in which I didn’t find the style to be too assaultive. Overlooking a few laboured moments, there’s a pleasing fluidity to the film (the prologue sequence is superb, and an airport set-piece is also brilliantly done), and some great details. The Dussolier character’s collection of “treasures” - it includes Churchill’s nail clippings - is a stroke of genius, as is the sabotage enacted against it by our heroes. The film also features perhaps my favourite piece of absurdist dialogue so far this year: “He busted a lung in a hot water-bottle exploding contest.”
The actors come through, too. Boon (a very popular comedian in France, he’s perhaps most familiar to Brit audiences from My Best Friend ) is adorable, and the rest of the salvagers - among them Julie Ferrier, Omar Sy, and Jeunet regulars Yolande Moreau and Dominque Pinon - also make their mark. I’m not sure that Micmacs adds up to much, ultimately, but overall it's a lively and inventive movie that keeps you grinning throughout.