A French comedy entitled Micmacs is the choice of the San Francisco Alliance Française for its Tuesday movie this week. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet – who also directed Delicatessen (1991), Amélie (2001) and A Very Long Engagement (2004) – its title can be loosely translated as a kind of manipulation.
Micmacs stars Dany Boon as Bazil, whose father was killed by a landmine which he was trying to defuse. Thirty years later, Bazil is working in a video rental store when he hears gunfire outside, runs out to see what’s happening, and is hit in the head by a stray bullet. Surgeons at the hospital decide that it’s better not to remove the bullet, and when Bazil is discharged, he returns to the video store to find that he no longer has a job. As he leaves, his replacement hands him the shell casing from the bullet which hit him.
This being the second time that Bazil has suffered at the hands of the arms industry, he decides to take his revenge on the manufacturer of the bullet as well as that of the landmine which killed his father. Homeless and without a job, Bazil is taken in by a group of junkyard dealers who gang up to help him carry out his plan.
The inspiration for Micmacs came to director Jeunet when he found himself filming near the offices of an aviation company, and when he saw the executives from the company at lunch, he was shocked by the realization that although they were obviously decent people, they were making a living by creating weapons for the purpose of destroying other human beings – and that they didn’t seem to be too concerned about it. Even so, Jeunet said, he wanted to make a comedy, which is why he chose to have a crew of junkyard collectors help Bazil with his revenge. “What could be more different from arms manufacturers than junkyard dealers?” he reasoned.
He was also influenced by the film Toy Story, because each of the characters in that film “has a character trait, something distinctive that serves the story, that helps move the plot forward”, so he created a different personality for each of his junkyard dealers.
Roger Ebert described Micmacs as “a movie with visual invention and imagination up the wazoo”, and The Guardian referred to Bazil’s junkyard friends as “cynical, immoral and absurd, lethal pantomime villains with friends in high places …… gleefully contributing their skills to ingenious scams set all over Paris.” Quite obviously, a sense of humor – and a sense of the ridiculous – are important prerequisites for viewers!
Micmacs has three awards and eight nominations to its credit. It won the Golden Reel award for Best Sound Editing in a Feature Foreign Language Film in 2011 from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA; the SLFCA award for Best Foreign Language Film from the St Louis Film Critics Association in 2010; and Best Non-English Language Film at the 2010 Utah Film Critics Association Awards.
Micmacs is shown in French with English subtitles, and screens at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on Tuesday, April 5, at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a donation of $5 is suggested.