With 5 critically acclaimed films in almost 20 years time (and only one failure) Jeunet has settled himself between the greats of contemporary cinema. Amélie was the film that granted him access to a larger international audience, but like many before him he found it quite hard to confirm his status after that. A Very Long Engagement wasn't exactly bad, but Micmacs is the one that will get him back on track.
That said, Micmacs shouldn't be compared to Amélie directly, as Jeunet travels farther back in time and lands his newest as a perfect companion piece to Delicatessen. Rather than give the film a romantic twist he inserts a darker edge, balancing witty satire with almost childlike playfulness and pure slapstick comedy. All in true Jeunet style.
The first five minutes are a bit chaotic with lots of character flashbacks, yet once the film settles down the true Jeunet magic quickly works its way to the surface. Bazil is a rather dull guy living a simple and ordinary life. One day he finds himself caught between two rivaling weapon manufacturers. One company's land mine killed his father, the other company's bullet nested itself deeply into his brain (an accident which he miraculously survived). Now, thrust on the streets with only a gang of castaways as friends, Bazil is out for revenge.
Jeunet introduces quite a few of his regular actors, forming a rather strange clan of outcasts and oddballs, each bearing their own specific talent. The rest of the film is spent on meticulous plans trying to set up both weapon manufacturers and having a few laughs along the way. It's a simple concept, but in the hands of Jeunet it works like a charm.
Visually Jeunet is stunning as always. No chance goes by unexplored to pull some cool camera tricks, his play with colors is as splendid as ever and the film features some absolutely stunning scenery. Especially the hideout of the gang is a joy to behold. A fortress of junk and scrap metal sculpted into a tiny little house. On top of that Jeunet has some very cool low-tech inventions which appear useless but are genius in their own right. These non-narrative interludes are without a doubt the best part of the film.
Micmacs might not look as slick as his previous films but makes more than up with its grittier style and visual splendor. The soundtrack is not quite up to par and quite frankly rather forgettable. On the other hand, it didn't irritate either, so it's not really a big issue. And in all fairness, I've never been too happy with Jeunet's taste in music.
Even though I've always been a fan of Jeunet's films, it's been hard to get a firm grasp of his actual qualities. His first few films were made together with Marc Caro who received much of the credits (even credited as co-director for some films). When Caro left, Jeunet delivered A Very Long Engagement, which felt lacking compared to his other work, but with Micmacs he simply erases all doubt. Jeunet has what it takes to make a good film.
Micmacs turned out to be quite lovely, containing all of Jeunet's usual traits. It's laugh out loud funny, contains several creative interludes and some dreamy and fluffy sequences. On the other hand, there's also a more cynical undertone present in the film. On top of that it's visually striking and features a truckload of A-class actors. What more could you want, really?
As long as you don't expect a new Amélie, chances are you'll love this film. If you've seen Delicatessen you should have a good idea what to expect, if not you should think Amélie but with a darker, more adventurous and boyish edge. It's a good 100 minutes of fun in a recognizable but still outlandish version of Paris, hosted by a gang of endearing weirdos. Highly recommended.