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(2010) *** R
104 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Cast: Dany Boon, Andre Dussollier, Nicolas Marie, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Yolande Moreau.

/content/films/3761/1.jpgIt’s not every comedy that can get away with opening on a roadside bombing, but Jean-Pierre Jeunet is no ordinary filmmaker. The creator of Amélie returns to the black comedy of Delicatessen with Micmacs, a goofy satire on the wages of the war machine.

Micmacs roughly translates to “shenanigans,” of which there are plenty on display. Jeunet’s fabulist style sat uncomfortably in the essentially dramatic terrain of his last film, A Very Long Engagement, but not this time. Just in Jeunet's wheelhouse, Micmacs keeps it as light as the material allows, which turns out to be pretty light indeed. French comedy superstar Dany Boon (My Best Friend) stars as Bazil, orphaned by that roadside bomb and further burdened by a stray bullet in the brain, embedded during a drive-by shooting that catches the video clerk unawares.

Now jobless as well as alone, Bazil accepts an invitation to join a group of junkyard-dwelling oddballs, each with an unusual talent that just might come in handy to achieve Bazil’s dream of revenge against the makers of the bullet in his head and the bomb that killed his father. Bazil, ex-con Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle), knockabout daredevil Buster (Dominique Pinon of Delicatessen), typing whiz Remington (Omar Sy), precise Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup), contortionist Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier), ingenious machinist Tiny Pete (Michel Crémadès) and loving cook Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau) constitute a sort of freakshow “Ocean’s Eight,” ready to pull anything and everything.

That’s bad news for the comically competitive arms manufacturers (hissably smug André Dussolier and Nicholas Marié), who wind up on the business end of some Mission: Impossible-style scheming, including a scam lifted directly (and boldly) from the classic TV series. With his team of misfits, Jeunet had in mind Toy Story, and he appropriates large swaths of Max Steiner’s score for The Big Sleep. As for Tiny Pete’s walking junk sculptures, they’re the work of artist Gilbert Peyre. Micmacs is also deliriously self-referential, with an advertisement for itself glimpsed on the street and a reprise of Delicatessen’s singing-saw scene that gives Pinon double-duty. In short, it’s a whimsical celebration of creation (art) triumphing over destruction (weapons).

It’s all very droll if not very deep, not unlike the villainous businessman who huffs defensively, “I don’t do politics.” Seen from Jeunet’s signature extreme angles, there’s a touch of social commentary here, a bit of simmering romance there, and a whole lot of, well, micmacs: a human cannonball, a soccer match with a landmine, and a secret collection that includes a Winston Churchill nail clipping, Matisse’s finger, Mussolini’s eye, and a Marilyn Monroe molar. In a sea of same old, same old summer-movies, Micmacs at least guarantees to be weird.

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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Aspect ratios: 2.40:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 12/14/2010

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Sony sends Micmacs home on Blu-ray with an impeccable hi-def transfer that accurately recreates the theatrical experience. The dominant visual impression of the film is its color scheme, and the hues remain true and bold on this disc. Detail and texture are fantastic, black level is solid, and contrast is spot-on, with nary a digital artifact to be seen. Audio comes in a robust, nicely balanced DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix with well-prioritized dialogue resting atop the detailed soundscape and complex Raphaël Beau score.

The Blu-ray disc comes with commentary with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who discusses the projects origins and intentions, casting, his relationship with actor Dany Boon, and the challenges of production. (See also my interview with Jeunet, found on the right sidebar...)

Eschewing the standard American EPK-style, “The Making of Micmacs (47:22, SD) lacks sit-down interviews but instead provides extensive raw footage from the set of the film as cast and crew work out the approach to and execution of the film’s key scenes, including director and actors working out business. The doc also gives glimpses of the production staff at work on set pieces, the post-production crew fine-tuning the film, and the film’s public unveiling.

Complementing the making-of doc is a “Q&A with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Actress Julie Ferrier” (10:40, HD), recorded at the Tribeca Film Festival. It gives a taste of audience reaction to the film as well as Ferrier's perspective, added to more interesting observations from the director.

“Animations: Absurd Deaths” (2:14, SD) includes pre-viz storyboards and modeling of characters and sets in their initial elements, contrasted with final shots.

Lastly, there's the “Theatrical Trailer” (2:11, HD) and, of course, BD-Live accessibility.

Jeunet fans will get a kick out of Micmacs on Blu-ray, and relish the opportunity to dig further with the meaty extras, especially the all-access look behind the camera.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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