Micmacs, Get Low, The Eclipse

The French director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, makes fantasies that are aimed at adults. In that sense, he’s sort of a cinematic E.T.A. Hoffmann. His latest film, Micmacs tells the story of Bazil (Dany Boon), an orphan whose father was killed by a land mine. When a shooting takes place outside the video store where Bazil works, he is struck in the head by a stray bullet. When he leaves the hospital with the bullet permanently lodged in his head, he finds that he has lost his job. He tries to support himself by working as a street performer, until he is befriended by a street vendor and former criminal, Pacard (Jean-Pierre Marielle). The latter takes him to a junkyard, where he introduces him to the Micmacs, a “family” of oddballs living in a sort of cave made out of junk. There they collect discarded items and turn them into useful objects or works of art. Bazil is welcomed into the group. One day, while out collecting scrap, he finds himself between two buildings. One is the headquarters of the company that made the mine that killed his father, the other is the company that made the bullet that is lodged in his head. Bazil then persuades the other Micmacs to help him get revenge on these two companies.

Micmacs is permeated with a uniquely French type of whimsicality, while it deals with a serious topic, the international arms market. The film’s aim is too broad to really make an effective statement. I nevertheless found it highly entertaining.

Get Low tells the story of Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), a hermit who has lived alone in the woods for forty years. He is the subject of many rumors among people in the nearby town. One day he tells the local undertaker, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his assistant, Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black), that he wants to have his funeral while he’s still alive. This “funeral” will actually be a party, at which people will be invited to tell whatever stories they have heard about him. Soon, however, it becomes clear that Bush’s real intention to reveal a dark secret from his past.

I mostly liked Get Low, but I had a few problems with it. For example, some of the townspeople show an extreme hostility towards Bush that really isn’t explained. Also, it turns out that Bush’s only close confidant is a Black preacher (Bill Cobbs). I found this a bit of a stretch, since the film takes place in the South during the 1930’s. And in one scene an elderly preacher says that his mother used to call gossip “the devil’s radio”. Since radios didn’t become common until the 1920’s, I found this something of an anachronism. On the other hand, I liked that there wasn’t a flashback when Bush reveals his secret. Instead, Bush relates everything in a monologue, which was more powerful than a flashback would have been. Duvall turns in a good performance, and Murray displays his usual wry charm.

As a dialectical materialist, I must guiltily confess that I’m a sucker for ghost movies. (My two favorites are The Uninvited and Dead of Night.) That’s why I went to see the Irish film, The Eclipse, even though the trailer didn’t look promising.

Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds) is a teacher living in Cobh, Ireland. He’s been seeing his father-in-law’s ghost, which is quite disturbing, especially since his father-in-law’s not dead. Farr is a volunteer for that city’s annual literary festival. His job to chauffeur Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), who writes books about ghosts, around town. (In one scene, Morelle tells him that her belief in ghosts led her to study particle physics. Uh, yeah.) Farr confides in her about his visions. Morelle is being pursued by her ex-lover, Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), a novelist. A sort of romantic triangle soon develops between the three.

I found The Eclipse an unsatisfying film. At the end, it’s not clear whether Farr was actually seeing ghosts or whether he was just having nightmares. The film uses sudden loud noises and things like arms suddenly reaching up out of the ground to get its scary effects. This struck me as a little trite, though I have to admit that such clichés can still be viscerally effective at times.

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2 Responses to “Micmacs, Get Low, The Eclipse”

  1. Renegade Eye Says:

    I’ve seen the star of Micmacs in other French movies, so I know he is great.

    I really liked Machete. It bordered on ultraleft.

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