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  Micmacs A Call To Arms
Year: 2009
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Stars: Dany Boon, André Dussollier, Nicolas Marié, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Yolande Moreau, Julie Ferrier, Omar Sy, Dominique Pinon, Michel Crémadès, Marie-Julie Baup, Urbain Cancelier, Patrick Paroux, Jean-Pierre Becker, Stéphane Butet, Philippe Girard
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 1979, when Bazil (Dany Boon) was a young boy, he lost his father who had been a soldier in the Sahara, blown up by a landmine. This devastated Bazil's mother and resulted in him being sent away to a care home when she couldn't look after him anymore - but something stuck in his mind, a photograph of the mine and the manufacturer's logo on it among his father's personal effects. Later, when he had grown up, he found a job working in a video store when one night a gun battle outside left him with a bullet in his brain; he survived, but one thing stuck in his mind apart from the bullet: the manufacturer's logo from the casing...

After a break of five years, cult director Jean-Pierre Jeunet returned to the movie scene with Micmacs (meaning a difficult situation), an oddball, champion the underdog comedy which was very much in his distinctive style, i.e. that appearance that by law has to be referred to as "quirky". After researching the arms trade, he decided to take aim at their dubious occupation through the medium of laughter, although strangely the laughs do not exactly come thick and fast, as you more sat back in admiration for the ingenuity on display. Another reason that this might not seem as funny as you'd anticipate is that there's a very serious message underlying the whole story.

That being, that supposedly respectable people are making their living, and very successfully too, at designing and creating tools for the maiming and the killing of the world's ctiizens. No matter how they market themselves as supplying the global demand for defence, and are therefore helping those who might be otherwise powerless in the face of mass violence, Jeunet was having none of it, especially as the dealers furnished the aggressors just as much as they supplied their opposite numbers. If not more so. But rather than get bogged down in a finger-wagging lesson to all those making oodles of cash through the misery and suffering of others, here things are kept as light as possible.

Which is an off-kilter combination, as it turns out, though we are certain that Jeunet was genuine in his message. As it is, Bazil ends up scarred both physically and mentally by the arms dealers' fortune-making, to the extent that he has hallucinations at moments of stress (taking the form of cartoon sequences), and not only that, but his time spent in hospital means he loses his apartment and belongings, and his job. Reduced to begging and sleeping on the streets, he meets up with a group of outsiders who take him under their collective wing, and as if in a comic strip they each have their own special talents which Bazil brings to bear on his new idea. Now he knows about the two arms manufacturers, and that their head offices are in the city, he will have his revenge.

What that entails is a selection of ingenious gadgets and manipulations, all employed to pit both the heads of the companies against each other without being aware of how. So one will have his collection of historical figures' body parts "liberated", and the other will see his expensive fleet of cars replaced with relics from the junkyard, and neither twig that all is not as it seems. The gang have no end of junkyard resources at their disposal, which sees one, a contortionist (Julie Ferrier), pressed into service to sneak into buildings hidden in boxes or slipping through air ducts, another, an inventor (Michel Crémadès), concoct various contraptions to assist, and even Dominique Pinon fired out of a cannon as part of their schemes (OK, that idea doesn't go quite to plan). So what you're left with is a series of novel setpieces all wrapped up in an achingly sincere, and even grim, moral, a not altogether perfect match, but you do appreciate the sentiment. Music by Raphaël Beau.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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