Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Release Date: 28 October Review by Robert Barry Near the beginning of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's new film, we see the film's protagonist sitting back in the video shop he works in, lipsyncing perfectly to a dubbed video of The Big Sleep. It's less an homage than a warning of the almost perversely convoluted plot that is to follow. Concerning the efforts of a band of eccentrics to exact revenge upon two rival arms dealers simultaneously, Micmacs sees Jeunet return to the surreal world of his early collaborations with Marc Caro after a decade spent shooting twee melodrama and screwball comedy. In the cinema, I couldn't help but remember another old noir, not The Big Sleep, but Sunset Boulevard, in particular the line in which Gloria Swanson says of the silent era, "We didn't need dialogue - we had faces." Micmacs is a film of few words, for which it substitues a Hitchcock-style 'image of mental relations' (Deleuze), and in its ensemble cast, a veritable rubber grotesquerie of extraordinarily agile faces and bodies, each more expressive than the last. The crown clowns amongst whom are clearly Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon, and French comic, Dany Boon, who proves himself a fine physical comedian, heir as much to Marcel Marceau as Chaplin or Tati. As with Amelie, the delightful, irrepressible strangeness of individuals remains Jeunet's theme here - with the character of the former ethnographer who helplessly reduces every event to verbose cliche its negative embodiment. But Micmacs ploughs a furrow altogether more fabulous than le destin fabuleux, if not quite the dystopian fantasy of City of Lost Children, its closest cousin is probably Delicatessan (a scene from which is quoted in one of Micmacs's many entertaining diversions). Like Jeunet's feature debut, Micmacs introduces us to a carnivalesque ensemble of eccentrics, each with their own biographies and peccadiloes, united by a particular locale (in Delicatessan, the boarding house above what seems to be the last butchers shop at the end of the world; in Micmacs, the curious little semi-subterranean shack on the bank of the Seine) and introduces to this milieu an idealistic young outsider, their equal in oddness, who soon embarks on a hesitant romance with one of the residents. There is conflict, but ultimately the group form a sort of union against some external threat (the troglodytes; the arms dealers). Just as Amelie seeks to present Paris as a village, the idiosyncrasies of the characters in Delicatessan (eating frogs, sexual perversity) and the very notion of le petit délicatessan clearly address certain stereotypical images of France, through which the film can present this idea of La République as independent, liberal outsider counterposed to an America, represented by the cheese spread advertised on the television within the film. In Micmacs, however, the other is not America per se, rather big business, Capital itself, as represented by the two firms of arms dealers. Against the mega-corps our band of outsiders forms a kind of united front of artisans, intellectuals and the lumpen proletariat. What the film is really dealing with is the formation of a kind of revolutionary cadre for the purpose of carrying out a series of terrorist actions (sabotage, larceny, kidnapping, etc.). They even pose as terrorists at one point (by wearing burkhas, naturally - this is Sarkozy's France after all) in order to trap the arms dealers into confessing all their crimes on video, to be broadcast on YouTube. Each member is as disaffected and alienated as the next, each with their own special skills to bring to their various missions. Jeunet's inspiration in this was Toy Story - further evidence, if such were needed, of the secret radical utopian potential buried in Pixar cartoons. Micmacs is a film that it is hard not to be seduced by. If only by the sheer speed and density of ideas, one is half-bludgeoned into a kind of awed amazement. It walks a tightrope on the edge of the irritatingly twee (which to my mind, Amelie fell off) but is never quite complacent enough to falter. The colours are rich, the photography never short of impressive and the pace never slackens. It is just a shame they had to end this critique of big arms firms with an advertisement for another giant corporation with a sinister intent: Google/YouTube.