Micmacs is a 2009 French comedy film by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Its original French title is MicMacs à tire-larigot, (‘Non-stop shenanigans’). The film is billed as a “satire on the world arms trade”. It premiered on 15 September 2009 at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival as a gala screening at Roy Thomson Hall.
The main character is Bazil (Dany Boon), whose father was killed attempting to defuse a land mine when Bazil was a child. The film begins with his father’s death, and then jumps to Bazil 30 years later working in a video rental shop in Paris. Bazil is watching The Big Sleep on a small television. The ending of The Big Sleep segues into the opening credits of Micmacs, shot in the old style in black and white with extended production credits.
Bazil hears gunfire and cars outside, opens the door of his shop, and is hit in the head by a stray bullet. A surgical team discusses whether or not to remove the bullet from his brain. Removing the bullet will risk damaging his brain further, while leaving it in will leave Bazil mostly healthy with the risk of dying suddenly at any moment. The head surgeon flips a coin and decides not to remove the bullet. Bazil returns to his job to find that he has been replaced. As he leaves, his replacement gives him a shell casing that she found from the bullet that had struck him. Bazil becomes homeless and lives on the streets of Paris for two months, before being “adopted” by a man named Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle). Slammer brings Bazil to a cave carved in a trash dump, where a group of scavengers live. Bazil meets several new friends: Elastic Girl (Julie Ferrier) is a contortionist, Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau) is a cook and leader of the crew, Remington (Omar Sy) is a former ethnographer who speaks in old-fashioned cliches, Buster (Dominique Pinon) is a human cannonball, Tiny Pete (Michel Crémadès) is an artist who designs moving sculptures from scavenged trash, Slammer is a former convict and guillotine survivor, and Calculator (Marie-Julie Baup) is a young woman who measures and calculates things with a glance. While scavenging for trash, Bazil discovers two office buildings and factories on opposite sides of a street. One is the arms manufacturer who built the land mine that killed Bazil’s father, and the other is the manufacturer who made the bullet that lodged in Bazil’s brain. Bazil decides to go inside, flips a coin, and chooses one of the offices. He asks to speak with the CEO, Nicolas Thibault De Fenouillet, but is immediately thrown out of the building. He crosses the street and manages to hear a speech by the other CEO, François Marconi.
Bazil follows Marconi home and hangs a microphone down his chimney. He hears a phone conversation arranging a meeting between Marconi and associates of Omar Boulounga, an African dictator seeking arms for an upcoming violent conflict. Mama Chow’s crew decides to help Bazil exact revenge on the two arms dealers. They first incapacitate Boulounga’s men by planting drugs on them in an airport. Remington, claiming to be Boulounga’s right hand man, meets with De Fennouillet and proposes the same deal which was offered to Marconi. Later, Remington calls each of Marconi and De Fennouillet and angrily cancels the deal. He tells Marconi that he will be dealing with De Fennouillet, and tells De Fennouillet that he will be dealing with Marconi. The two CEOs are furious and declare war on each other. Bazil and his friends break into Marconi’s house and steal and replace his luxury cars, and steal De Fennouillet’s collection of body-part relics from historical persons. They steal and destroy a truck full of bombs from Marconi’s plant. Marconi assumes that De Fennouillet is responsible, and arranges to sabotage a machine causing a massive explosion in De Fennouillet’s factory. Next, Elastic Girl breaks into Marconi’s apartment searching for blackmail material while Bazil waits and listens on the roof. Marconi arrives unexpectedly, and Elastic Girl is forced to hide for hours in the refrigerator. De Fennouillet sends an armed team to attack Marconi, but Boulounga’s men arrive first and take him hostage. Boulounga’s men are about to execute Marconi when they are shot by De Fennouillet’s men.
Marconi and De Fennouillet discuss and learn that they have been pitted against each other by Bazil. They capture Bazil on the roof, and take him away in their car. Elastic Girl comes out of her hiding place, and calls in the rest of the crew to rescue Bazil. After a car chase through Paris, Bazil is saved and Marconi and De Fennouillet are captured. The two CEOs are bound and hooded, and they hear a long plane flight followed by a ride in a car. When they are allowed to see again, they are in the middle of the desert. In a scene inspired by Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, De Fennouillet is sitting on Marconi’s shoulders with a live grenade in his mouth, while Marconi stands on a live land mine. A small crowd wearing veils sit watching them holding photographs of landmine victims. The men beg for mercy and confess to their roles in supplying arms to the IRA, ETA, and Darfur combatants.
Marconi and De Fennouillet fall and discover that the grenade and mine are not armed. The small audience is revealed to be Bazil and his friends in disguise, who have been recording the event with a video camera. In a flashback inspired by Brian De Palma’s Mission Impossible, we see that Bazil and his friends simulated the entire plane flight with various sound effects, and the desert setting is simply a clearing in a Paris suburb. Bazil and Calculator upload their video to YouTube, and Marconi and De Fennouillet are publicly disgraced. The film ends with a dialogue by Remington how Bazil and the Elastic Girl get together.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film: