February 26, 2010


Comedy comes in two forms- the funny and the unfunny. Hollywood has regressed to making films which are genuinely unfunny in the last couple of years- fratboy humour has rowed with Jennifer Aniston's romantic comedies over who will sink to the botttom. When physical humour is about flatulence alone and verbal humour seldom reaches the heights of Happy Days let alone Howard Hawks, we have a problem. Thankfully there are good comic films out there. Jean Jeunet the French film maker made a lovely comedy in Amelie and has followed that with a film, Mic-Macs, which though different is still very amusing. Amelie was all about the heroine and her observations about the world and characters within it. Micmacs is more about a storyline- a cartoonish storyline in which bad corporate types who lead arms dealing companies- are stopped in their nefarious ways by the goodies, a group of misfits living in the rubbish of Paris. The implausibility of the exploits of these misfits doesn't really matter: who worries about the implausibility of Tom and Jerry's antics, so why should you worry here?

Instead you are fixated on the physical comedy of the film. This film could be a silent film- you do not really need words, though there are some exceptionally funny verbal jokes (mainly involving an anthropologist who has become so lost in his subject that he only speaks in cliche), but the film could easily be silent. Amongst the group of misfits are a contortionist, a human cannonball, a career criminal, a calculator and an inventor. Our lead character finds himself amongst them when he is shot by accident, the doctors decide not to take the bullet out because it will render him a vegetable and though he might die at any moment, to be fully alive but uncertain is to be better than a vegetable and certain of continuing. He decides to take revenge on the manufacturers of the gun that shot him- and enlists the eccentrics he falls in with to help.

What follows is a wonderfully anarchic set of events- I will not spoil them by detailing them but suffice it to say that romance and friendship are mixed into the plot. There isn't much in the way of character development here but there doesn't really need to be. Nor is there much of a plot, unless it is a reassertion of the fact that the most valuable human beings are not always the most ambitious ones, that difference is a virtue not a vice and that worldly success in life can be a sign that someone has failed internally. There aren't many more points than those and they aren't developed- but what is developed is a sheer sense of anarchic job, a joie de vivre, a happiness which fills the film. This is a cartoon and what you get from it is the exuberrent sense of a director who has liberated himself from the constraints of reality- not through the pornography of CGI- but using actors and situations. Nothing in this film looks like any non-Jeunet film although the references are there.

The scene of another film that it most reminds me of is not a scene which the film visually ressembles, but a scene its spirit ressembles. In Jules et Jim, Jules, Jim and Catherine race each other through the streets of Paris and Catherine wins- the joy in that scene is the joy in Jeunet's film. Why care about tommorrow when today is so fun and so filled with exuberrence and life. Jeunet's film isn't making a point or exploring a mindset but showing us something about the way that life could and perhaps should be lived- with joy as its focus. I'm not sure philosophically or politically where that leads us: I don't think Jeunet has a view neccessarily either, what I am sure though is that it leaves us emotionally enjoying the ride. This is a film to have fun with.

Shakespeare once said that France was the world's best garden, if so Jeunet enjoys riding the swings and I don't see why we shouldn't want to join him!