Micmacs à tire-larigot

The director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose masterpieces Delicatessen and Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain are some of the best French films of the past two decades, has been going steadily downhill since his 2004 film A Very Long Engagement. He now seems to be coasting along on prior success: his latest film, which contains none of the refreshing wit of any of his previous work, is entertaining only as a superficial distraction.

Ostensibly a satire of the arms industry, the film—whose goofy title, loosely translated, means “non-stop shenanigans”—tells of a video-store employee who survives being shot in the head by accident, and has a bullet permanently lodged in his brain. His father died by stepping on a hidden land-mine, and, in order to avenge his father’s death, makes it his life goal—after being fired from his job—to track down the manufacturers of the two weapons.

In a typically Jeunetian move, he’s assisted in this task by a band of quirky outcasts and would-be circus freaks holed up in a bunker at the bottom of a garbage dump. While the romance, innovative script and warm spectacle of Amélie offset its potentially irritating whimsy, the hyper-real colours in this film combine with an irritating brand of French farce to become totally insufferable and utterly childish.

For an example of a mature implementation of a similar visual rubric, see Alain Resnais’ latest film Les herbes folles, out in cinemas some time in the next few months.

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