MICMACS: The Film Babble Blog Review

(Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2009)

It’s been way too long since French twisted fantasy-centric film maker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (DELICATESSEN, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, AMELIE) has graced the screen with his uber colorful thrusting imagery. His stunning style is instantly recognizable in the first few frames of MICMACS, his first film since A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (2004).

In the swift motions of a great storyteller we see a soldier being killed in the desert by a landmine, his devastated wife institutionalized, and son (Noé Boon) sent off to Catholic School before growing up to be a video store clerk (Dany Boon) who can lip-synch every line of THE BIG SLEEP (the dubbed into French version BTW). One night a stray bullet from a drive-by shootout ends up embedded in his skull.

After Boon gets out of the hospital he finds that he has lost his job and apartment so he has to turns to street performance for the pittance of passerby’s. Luckily he’s a skilled Chaplin-esque showman so he’s about to float through a few months until he meets Jean-Pierre Marielle as an ex con vendor. Marielle introduces Boon to his “family” – a rag tag ensemble of scrap heap dwellers who all make magic out of scrap metal. The trash troop includes Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon who claims to hold the world record as a human cannonball, Julie Ferrier as a contortionist (and love interest for Boon) who can make room in the fridge for, well, herself, Yolande Moreau as the slightly dizzy den mother, and Omar Sy as a crafty ethnographer as well as an accomplished mimic.

Boon has found a home and shortly after happens upon the opulent headquarters of the arms dealers responsible for the death of his father and the bullet in his head. His impossibly elaborate revenge schemes are enacted by his new cohorts in trickery. André Dussolier and Nicolas Marie as the offending snooty villains of the piece are besotted and baffled at every turn with a smorgasbord of well timed and often hilarious obstacles aimed at the butt of their weapons manufacturing empires.

MICMACS is a bit overdone and cutesy at times but has so many ideas and so much going on in nearly every shot that one can let that slide. So much so that I can also let slide the cringe-worthy anti-war bent to the climax. Its ginormous sense of wonder is overwhelming – it’s easily the most visually pleasing live action film this year. Jeunet’s whimsical approach which was so exhilarating in AMELIE and his work with Marc Caro, is at once both modern and classical. The film is wrapped in the traditional packaging of many TCM staples (the opening elegant credits after the cold opening, the silent film steals, the playful piano plinking, etc.) yet the film utilizes CGI and gives us Jeunet embracing the age of YouTube.

I’d highly recommend seeing MICMACS on the big screen if you can. You really need a large canvas for such a pulsating painting like this.

More later…

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE: The Film Babble Blog Review

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Dir. Danny Boyle, 2008)

The buzz has been a-blazing on this film way before it made the news when Roger Ebert got smacked down (literally) by a fellow critic at a screening in Toronto last September. Right now it is topping many Critics’ Award lists for 2008, getting multiple Golden Globe nominations, and gaining massive word of mouth as it gets a wider release. What’s more impressive is that this film deserves every accolade and award and then some. It is a “feel good” movie in the least cynical use of that well worn publicity phrase with its inventive story-telling and rich palette of visual splendor, simply amazing considering its squalor-filled settings. So how can depictions such as poverty, child abuse, and even the sight of somebody drenched in feces be in a film that adds up to an overwhelmingly happy and heart-warming experience? I dunno, but this film pulled it off magnificently – echoing the power and grandeur of CITY OF GOD crossed with the clever charm of Boyle’s own MILLIONS, and its done with wit and grit to spare.

Our hero is 18 year old Jamal (Dev Patel along with Tanay Cheda and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as Jamal at younger intervals) who is being interrogated by police, USUAL SUSPECTS-style, about his suspiciously improbable winnings from appearing on the Hindi version of the modern classic quiz game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. His answers involve engaging and sometimes disturbing flashback sequences that are handled deftly and definitely more fluidly than in many other recent broken narratives. From an early age, Jamal made a couple of connections that would deeply affect his current predicament – his love for Latika (Freida Pinto with Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, and Rubiana Ali as younger incarnations) and his stormy clashes with fellow slum kid Salim (Madhur Mittal, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail – whew!) All of these talents, tested (especially Anil Kapoor as the unctuous game show host) and untested are up to the task at hand here.

A end credits dance sequence (that can’t possibly be a Spoiler!, can it?) is the only thing Bollywood about this Indian movie made by Brits but that works as well and as entertainingly as everything else here. Despite a fair amount of subtitled dialogue (which is pretty stylized as it goes for subtitles) 80-90% of it is spoken in English and it’s instantly accessible so it’s sure to pick up even more acclaim and box office in the weeks to come. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is one of the best movies of the year for sure and will endure to be much more than a winner this awards season – I feel that for years to come it’s going to be a favorite of the same folks who can love AMELIE and an edgier work like GOODFELLAS equally. It has plenty of pure stultifying competition (got MILK?) out there in what’s shaping up to be a precedent setting prestige motion picture season, but from what I’ve seen so far this has the “fun factor” on its side in spades.

More later…