Is Toronto Broken? Movies Reviewed: This Movie is Broken, Thomas Pynchon: a Journey into the Mind of P

Do you ever get the feeling the city is broken? That everything is splitting apart at the seams? A honking parade of cars promoting exuberant football nationalism every time a ball enters a net half a world away, bringing traffic to a halt for a half a day with whistles, buzzing vuvuzelas and rhythmic car horns. And south of there, something more sinister: rows of riot police securitizing the crowned heads from potential cherry bombs, demanding photo ID’s from subway riders and arresting people as they come out for resembling someone “described in an anonymous phone call, ma’am”.

And making sure nobody gets too close to the downtown Freedom Fence. Yup, the G-20 is in town. Aah… I love the smell of teargas in the morning.

What to do? Well, you can always rub that magic lantern and end up at a movie. And if you’re feeling really rebellious, go to an indie movie in an underground movie theatre. Escapism does have a purpose after all.

One movie that seems especially appropriate is called “This Movie is Broken: a Rock Show Romance”, directed by Bruce McDonald (who did Road Kill, Hard Core Logo, and Pontypool), and written by Don McKellar. I caught it at last week’s NXNE music festival.

This is a totally Toronto movie, a concert film shot last summer, featuring Broken Social Scene, with a bunch of guest musicians all up on a stage at Harbourfront. But it’s also a very low key “boy meets girl” story.

The guy (Greg Calderone) tells his best buddy that he just woke up in bed, not with just anyone, but with the woman he had a crush on as a nine year old. His ultimate crush. Pretty, sophisticated Caroline (Georgina Reilly) is studying anthropology in Paris. Can you believe it? His blonde bearded buddy (played by Kerr Hewitt, wearing what a friend of mine refers to as an ironic hat) gets him to play up his status. When Caroline says she’s too busy to hang out that night, he casually says that’s too bad, cause I coulda got us a back stage pass at the Broken Social Scene concert. Oh yeah? says Caroline. That’s what I’m busy doing tonight. Oops. So he has to somehow get her into the concert by hook or by crook. Like I said, it’s a concert movie and a lightweight romance.

But I thought it went together perfectly. I’m not a follower of the band, so as an outsider – not a music critic or a fan of the group – I really enjoyed, and was totally entranced by the performances. This is one of those cases where just the story would have been too silly, and just the concert would have been too concert-y for me, but the sum total was just right.

Interestingly, the movie was shot last summer during the contract dispute (between the city government and the public workers, when no garbage was collected and it was deposited instead in city parks and baseball diamonds, with the garbage mountains reaching epic proportions). So it’s good, gritty, scenic Toronto. Since we survived that we can survive this, too.

Another movie I stumbled upon at NXNE, that should be easy to find online — it was made nine years ago. It’s a German/Swiss documentary: “Thomas Pynchon: a Journey into the Mind of P.”, directed by Donatello and Fosco Dubini.

This is a weird one! Pynchon is the guy who wrote the momentous tome Gravity’s Rainbow, and the more compact novel with the shorter name V. His books, and the movie itself, covers the huge, disturbing themes and incidents that obsessed people in the 69’s and 70’s: The Cuban Missile Crisis, the cold war, The assassination of JFK, the Vietnam war, LSD, the CIA, rockets to the moon… stuff like that. So, naturally, an obsessive cult has sprung up around this writer. What does he look like? Where does he live? Pynchon is known as a recluse who has never had his picture taken and whose personal information is kept, well, private.

So, apparently, urban legends about the guy abound. Did he use to dress up as a woman to go to bookstores unrecognized? Did he meet Lee Harvey Oswald on a crucial airplane trip? What’s his real connection to Timothy Leary? And the CIA? And who really showed up to accept the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow?

And in the background to all these strange unexplained mysteries is footage of subway rides sped up, and music slowed down featuring The Replacements. Warped 60’s pop hits slowed down and distorted till they sounds like this: Yummy Yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy… and C’mon baby light my fire… but stuck in tar. And then a train goes into a tunnel… I wonder that means? It’s a strange, low-budget, pop culture documentary about the followers of the Pynchon cult, and worth seeing.

But if you want some real escapism, to get away from it all, there are two new places in Toronto to do that. First, there will be two days of free movies at Carlton and Yonge street in the theatre there. It used to be the Cineplex Carlton, but closed a while back, and is now being re-opened as the Magic Lantern Carlton Theatre. It’s part of the same chain that operates the Rainbow Theatres, which are a little cheesy but a lot of fun, and always packed with students on a budget – they charge lower prices than the big chains, but show first-run movies on the old Cineplex-style small screens.

So now’s your chance to see all the ones you wanted to catch – academy award nominees, good kids movies, foreign films – all at one place. You can see Sarah Polley’s movie Away from Her, based on an Alice Munroe story about Alzheimers, the really great animated Fantastic Mr Fox, The Japanese movie Departures, about funerals, Atom Egoyan’s Chloe, and even How to Train your Dragon – an animated kids movie about a Viking kid who meets a dragon, but a really good one that all ages can enjoy.

I liked it.

Another movie theatre that recently opened downtown is the aptly named Toronto Underground Cinema. I last went to that theatre when it was the Golden Harvest, one of the last Chinese language movie houses – it’s at 186 Spadina, north of Queen. I still remember watching a Hong Kong zombie comedy (zom-com) where they put on the third reel of the film right after the first reel – and no one noticed for a while, everyone just thought the plot was a bit jumpy.

The theatre still has that slightly off-beat, don’t-know-what-to-expect feel about it. The Toronto Underground is deep underground, literally. It’s a nice big place, good stage and screen, popcorn, and cool old plumbing fixtures. The three guys who run this theatre program everything from amazing documentaries like “Gasland”, to cult classics like “Lady Terminator”, to present-day schlock like “MacGruber”.

They seem to be reviving the double feature – putting together two good movies that go together. If you’re in the mood this weekend, and really want to escape, what could be better than “Hot Tub Time Machine” matched with “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Toronto Underground is another theatre that attracts noisy and fun audiences ready to hoot and holler at the good parts.

This city is not broken at all  —  you just have to know where to go.

Journeys. Movies reviewed: Winter’s Bone, Get Him to the Greek, Cyrus

Watching a movie is like going on a journey, a quest, or a mission. It might show you a different world you might never have had the chance to see on such an intimate level. So today I’m looking at some simple stories that take you on a trek through the woods in the Ozark Mountains, then down a steep hill to a new low level, and then back up again. (The hill I’m referring to is Jonah Hill).

“Winter’s Bone”

Dir: Debra Granik

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17 year old girl who lives in dirt poor rural Missouri in the Ozarks with her silent mother and two little kids. Her father is nowhere to be seen. Ree is educating the kids on living with zero income – the correct way to shoot a rifle, how to skin a squirrel and pull its guts out, how to make deer stew. (Sarah Palin, eat your heart out; this Ree’s the real thing.) She stops by the highschool, pondering whether to sit in on the childrearing class, or to join the military marchers, parading, in step, with their rifles.

In the old comics, DeBeck’s Barney Google and Snuffy Smith lived up in the hills, and used hidden stills to make moonshine and keep it from the revenoo-ers (the tax collectors). Nowadays, they’re more likely to run a lab where they cook up crank (a.k.a. crystal meth) the current drug of choice.

So Ree’s not surprised one day when the Sheriff comes by. Her Dad, Jessup, is missing, awaiting trial. He’s out on a bail bond. None of this is news. But here’s the kicker. He put the house up as collateral for the bond, and if he doesn’t show up for trial, they seize the house, and kick out the family. So, Ree has to find him and bring him in.

Ree’s a Dolly – “bread and buttered”, she says. The Dollys aren’t the nicest family in those parts, but they’re her kin and she has no one else to turn to. So she starts out on a long, scary complicated journey, from relative to relative, trying to find out what happened to him, so she can save her home and family. There are some strange secrets, and creepy, danegerous family members (you half expect a pig farmer Picton peeking out of a barn), and no one is telling her what she wants to know. But Ree knows something “real wrong is going on”.

Winter’s Bone is an excellent, compelling mystery-drama, nicely made on location in the Ozarks with an unknown cast. With the fiddle, banjo and the guitar and mountain folksongs making the soundtrack, it feels as far from Dollyland as you can get. If youliked the great movie “Frozen River”, you’ll love “Winter’s Bone”.

Another movie with a simple journey plot is:

“Get Him to the Greek”

Dir: Nicolas Stoller

But I can’t think of a movie more different.

Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) is a low level record label exec who lives in L.A, with his girlfriend, an over-worked med school grad. He works with stupid toadies promoting awful music. But he gets his first big break. A chance to accompany his childhood hero, the faded rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) from London to appear at the Greek Theatre for his big comeback. Aldous Snow has been on a decade-long bender, existing solely on drugs and alcohol since the colossal failure of his single African Child.

Aaron’s the straight man in this movie. He has to get Aldous to LA on time, at all costs. He quickly finds himself as a personal assistant immersed in an insane world of excess — groupies, self-centred musicians, hotel room trashing, guitar smashing, and previously unheard of drug varieties. He’s forced to endure unforseen levels of humiliation, degradation, pain and suffering, just to get him to the theatre on time.

The movie’s kinda funny, but not that funny. Some of the jokes are drawn out way past their expiry dates. In one scene, Aaron has to consume all the available drugs and alcohol to keep Aldous sober for his TV performance. I get it – that’s funny. But did he have to wear his vomit on his lapel like a corsage for all the scenes that followed? It’s kinda disgusting – like a lot of this movie.

I guess the movie is playing on the absolutely vapidity and vacuousness of the mainstream, commercial music scene, but the movie itself was pretty vapid and excessive. Russell Brand’s a sharp British comic, the character’s good, and Jonah Hill’s not bad either, so they can keep the weak laughs coming, but it’s hard to have any sympathy or affection for either of them. Aside from some very clever lines (Aaron tells his girlfriend “ You’re blackmailing me with your genitals”. And says to his boss “I don’t think you’re a house N-word…”) and a few good scenes, there’s not much there. “Get Him to the Greek” is not a bad comedy, but not a very good one either. Save it for the next time you’re on an airplane – there are better things to see on the ground.

A much better, funnier and more interesting comedy is:

Cyrus

Wri/Dir: Jay and Mark Duplass

John (John C. Reilly) has been on a lonely, depressed tailspin since his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) dumped seven years before. But now she’s about to get remarried, and she wants him to snap out of it, to live his life. So she takes him to a cocktail party where he starts to guzzle glasses of vodka and red bull. He strikes out with a bunch of women he tries to meet – using the worst conceivable pick up lines – and finally meets someone, Molly, while he’s taking a leak into a potted palm tree. After an impromptu karaoke session to the Human League, and they really it off. So things are looking up.

But Molly is hiding something. He’s been single for seven years, but she’s been single for 22. She spends all her time son Cyrus. They have a special, intimate relationship – she’s home-schooled him since birth, and to say they’re close is an understatement. They do everything together – no secrets. It’s approaching Oedipal proportions. And her son? No, he’s not a child, or an adolescent – he’s an adult now, but still lives at home. It’s Jonah Hill, this time as a rather creepy demon seed. He wears shirts buttoned up to the neck, and doesn’t know how to talk with outsiders.

So when John moves in with her, he’s on thin ice, with both of them competing for Molly’s precious attention. There’s a hilarious scene when the two men start to talk to each other and Cyrus does a musical performance on his Mac. Lots of awkward scenes follow, and then they find themselves as passive-aggressive enemies. Cyrus is devious and manipulative, but so is John. It’s a psychological war, but one that has to be hidden from Molly’s eyes, until it finally explodes into a big confrontation.

Cyrus is a clever, funny, and uncomfortable movie, with lots of improvisation by the small cast. The Duplass brothers take the simple, run-of-the-mill high-concept premise – new boyfriend moves in with girlfriend and her adult son – and make it into an unusual, inventive movie.

My only criticism is what the movie looks like. They tend to use that annoying type of filming I call “paparazzo-style”: jiggly, hand-held camera shots that zoom right in on a character then zoom in even closer. Extreme close ups. The stuff you see on cheap-ass reality shows or gossip shows like TMZ – it makes it look like the cameraman is catching a character when they don’t know they’re being filmed. But Cyrus is a movie – and it’s distracting and irritating; it might work watching youtube on an iPad, but a movie screen is just too big for that.

But that’s small criticism for a very funny and clever adult dark comedy with great improvisations by all four actors.

Rockers and Rollers. Movies Reviewed: Search and Destroy: Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power; You Left Me Blue; Carnival; Holy Rollers

Posted in African-Americans, Coming of Age, Crime, Cultural Mining, documentary, Drama, drugs, Movies, Music, Punk, US by CulturalMining.com on June 12, 2010

Every so often you get to see fans gathering together to see their heroes from all over the world perform. (No, I’m not talking about the World Cup.) There’s also a huge — monumentally huge – event / festival / conference / I don’t know what you call it, but it’s a mammoth music thing happening, starting next week in downtown Toronto called NXNE. So why am I talking about music instead of movies? Because it’s a festival that doesn’t just have 600-plus bands performing just about everywhere (with free concerts at Dundas and Yonge), but it also has interactive media, and yes, lots of movies, more than 40, all about the independent and alternative music industry. Here’s a taste at some of the movies they’ll be showing.

“Search and Destroy: Iggy & The Stooges’ Raw Power”

Dir: Morgan Neville

Iggy and the Stooges is often called the first punk band ever. Iggy Pop (who would always perform, writhing google-eyed on the stage, without a shirt on), took the opposite path of the heavily produced progressive rock of the 70’s. From Ann Arbor, Michigan, Iggy Pop and his band The Stooges were never huge, but were very influential, with a lot of die-hard fans. This 45 minute documentary traces the band’s history, how they made it big, (thanks in part to David Bowie), how they crashed and burned and fell out of sight, and how they have recently started touring again, for a new, young audience.

The movie — like many rock documentaries – mainly consists of shots of him on stage, in concert, or in the recording booth mixing stuff. But he’s such an entertaining, uncensored, foul-mouthed rocker, he’s fun to watch and listen to. I’ve always liked his music. You can check out the movie at NXNE (and catch them live, outside at Dundas Square in Toronto on June 19th.)

“You Left Me Blue”

Dir: Chris Terry, Ross Edmunds

Back in the days when Queen St. West was concentrated around the low-end bars, diners, office equipment places, and used bookstores; when it was still a bit unseemly, long before it became the outdoor shopping mall it is today, the cool part of Queen West stretched from University to a little past Spadina… it was the centre of some of the new kinds of music in the 70‘s. So in clubs like the Rex, The Beverley Tavern, the Rivoli, Horseshoe, and the Cameron, (aside from the people there just for the very cheap glasses of beer) musicians, lots of ‘em, were playing rock, punk, jazz, art house, and pop music.

And right in the middle of all this was the anomaly known as Handsome Ned, the country singer. He wore the requisite bandana and denim, the yokel straw cowboy hat, sometimes with bales of hay on the stage, and he played a harder edged, traditional country music – Hank Williams type, (senior, not junior) with a tinge of rockabilly between all the yippee-ay-oh–kye-yays.

Rockabilly was having a revival around then; country, on the other hand, most decidedly was not. So Handsome Ned was a real oddball flouting what everyone else deemed as cool. But he definitely had his street cred, and he performed with musicians from great Toronto bands (like the Demics).

This Toronto documentary lovingly looks at recovered recordings and old, low-grade video footage of him, admirers, fans and fellow musicians. It’s not a gripping 80-minute doc, but it is a loving one. Tragically, Ned Masyk, with his endearing crooked smile and acoustic guitar, died of a drug overdose about 25 years ago, but his legacy lives on. So now that people can wear checked shirts on the streets of Toronto without being stared at, now that there are trendy clubs that specialize in the very music Handsome Ned pioneered, it’s nice to see a low-key, low-budget tribute like “You Left me Blue” to show who started it all, and to fill in some of the gaps in local music history.

“Carnival”

Dir: Don Letts

In the late 1950’s, in Nottinghill, London, in response to rioting white teddy boys, the locals, mainly immigrants from the Caribbean, started up a music parade in the streets, known simply as Carnival—very much like Toronto’s Caribana – but at the same time very different.

This 45 minute documentary told me a lot of things I didn’t know. They say it’s the biggest street carnival in Europe… and I’d never heard of it. It brings up the amazing fact that it was Enoch Powell – the British Conservative Party minister – the man who made the notorious, racist anti-immigration Rivers of Blood speech in 1968 – was the minister who called for people from the crumbling former empire to come to Great Britain to work in the factories.

This is a really great documentary by British movie and video director, and DJ, Don Letts. He’s the guy who put together Big Audio Dynamite in the 80’s, and one of the few people who bridged two very different musical genres. You can tell he’s very close to the people he puts in his movie — not the cold rent-a-heads you see in a lot of docs. I really like this kind of movie because it’s not just musicians talking about how great (or how debauched or drugged out) other musicians are. He takes vintage footage – TV, film, photos, super 8, video – and seamlessly ties them together with a constantly shifting soundtrack of calypso, ska, reggae, soca, punk, hip hop, dancehall, sound machine, toasting… just about everything to keep you abreast of the fifty years of Carnival the movie covers. He shows the incredible musical fecundity spilling out of Carnival… and the periodic (anti-police) rioting that occurred every 20 years or so.

Really fascinating speakers talk about the fair’s history, not just superficial memories but really incisive, politically apt commentary. And it’s also strong on the musical side, with people like one of my favourite DJs of all time, Norman Jay; Paul Simenon (The Clash), Jazzy B (Soul II Soul); along with a host of British politicians, intellectuals, and journalists – I don’t know who they all are exactly, but they’re great to listen to.

OK, enough rocking – here’s some rolling. Holy rolling.

“Holy Rollers”

Dir. Kevin Asch

“Holy Rollers” is a drama based on a true story about an actual MDMA-smuggling ring in the late 90’s that used naïve, Chassidic boys as their international drug mules.

Jesse Eisenberg, (Squid and the Whale, Zombieland, Adventureland) plays Sam Gold, a cherubic, rosy- cheeked, ultra-orthodox Jewish boy, (with blonde prayer curls, big hat, black clothes, sort of Amish-looking) from a poor family in Brooklyn. His life is all set up for him. He studies hard but he’s not a great student. He’ll work in his father’s little cloth store on Delancey street in the Lower East Side, and they’re setting him up withy a bride (she tells him she wants eight kids) and there’s no touching, not even hand-holding, before marriage.

But right next door is the sleazy ne’erdowell religious school drop-out Yosef (Justin Bartha). The houses in this tight knit community are really close together, so Sam can see him through his bedroom window. Yosef watches soft-core cable porn on his TV. He smokes, he drinks, he uses bad words, he’s a bully, he’s a hood… he’s everything Sam knows is bad.

But Sam feels trapped in his insular, strict, and poor life. So he agrees to take some stuff – it’s medical supplies for rich people, he’s told — on a plane from Amsterdam. And though he’s naïve the first time, once he finds out what he was doing he decides to stay with it. The movie shows the moral dilemma he faces his gradual transformation from an innocent kid to a sushi eating, brown jacketed, drug taking criminal who kisses women in furs. Even from the first step into depredation, when Sam receives a pair of white Nikes from the drug cartel, you can see he realizes what he’s doing is not right. (He hides the shoebox under his bed so his parents can’t see.) And it’s a downward spiral from there. But Sam’s no Scarface: “Holy Rollers” is a non-violent, coming-of-age crime drama about life in the 90’s. And probably the only movie showing the ethical questions faced by Chassids on ecstacy.

Geek Appeal! Movies reviewed: It Came from Kuchar; Splice; Micmacs.

It Came from Kuchar

Dir: Jennifer Kroot

George and Mike Kuchar are a pair of twins from New York City, who have been making strange, low-budget kitsch-y exploitation movies since they were 12 years old. Together — and separately — they have directed hundreds and hundreds of these things. They’re interviewed in this documentary, along with some of their actors, and many of their famous admirers.

The Kuchar brothers started making 8 mm shorts as kids in their parents’ basement in the Bronx. They got their neighbours and family members to play the parts. They combined melodramatic, campy stories and extremely broad amateur acting, within the world of B movies: the land of serious exploitation genre movies – horror, monster, thriller, murder, sex… and all the rest. Their filmography reads like a haiku written in Mad Magazine:

Hold me when I’m naked
Color me shameless, Thundercrack
Boulevard kishka

The Kuchars make-up and costume their actors in unusual ways — painting enormous, dramatic black eyebrows on all their female characters. (Maybe they were influenced by the old silent movies – Valentino, Theda Bara with their heavy make up and melodrama – keep in mind, in the early 1960’s those old silent movies were not ancient and forgotten at all – they were as omnipresent and as recent as 80’s movies are to filmmakers today.)

The Kuchar brothers were also known for integrating all the “organic” aspects of life that were not previously shown in movies – such as toilet functions, throwing up, blood and guts — that were intentionally left out of mainstream films… because they’re gross, and also because they were banned by the Hays Code – you couldn’t show it. “Low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil” topics were “subject to the dictates of good taste”. But the Kuchars made underground movies. They existed outside the Code (though still subject to the law) as a crucial part of the underground film movement that really took off in the sixties. Later the Kuchars moved to San Francisco where they also participated in the 1970’s underground comics movement based there.

In this fun documentary (which was screened at the Inside-Out festival in Toronto), you see the big names of today – John Waters, Guy Madden, Atom Egoyan – talking about how the Kuchar films influenced them. It shows some of their signature techniques, and captures them shooting their latest production, It’s a hilarious documentary, because you get to see little clips of some of their films – things like cheesy UFO’s, a guy with three foot dangling testicles, a haunting, melodramatic scene of a woman taking out the trash, lots of god-awful rubber puppet monsters – without needing to sit through a whole Kuchar movie.

Splice
Dir: Vincenzo Natali

Vincenzo Natali, is not all that famous, but I think he’s one of the most successful Canadian directors there is. He directed the science fiction movie Cube – about a bunch of people stuck inside an elevator-like cube who want to get out – which was extremely popular in many countries, while largely overlooked in Canada. (Cool story, so-so acting.) His latest movie, “Splice” – starring Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody – is his first big name, bigger budget movie.

Elsa and Clive are scientists who work in a research lab for the N.E.R.D. (as in nerd) corporation. They’re trying novel ways to combine the DNA — the genetic information — of various animals. But their big breakthrough – a new life form, a sort of walking lump of flesh, that can mate and reproduce – has a rather dramatic failure. So it’s back to the old drawing board.

But Elsa wants to take it even further.

Their next project has human DNA spliced, on the sly, into the mix to create a new sort of animal. Sort of like the Island of Dr Moreau.

It’s totally illegal, but Elsa wants to hang on to her new, rapidly growing flesh lump. She becomes its protector. She even names her: “Dren” — that’s nerd spelled backwards. But as she grows up, Dren’s human and animal parts begin to appear. First scary, then cute (with a rabbit-y cleft pallet), and later, as something else again.

Elsa and Clive are forced to smuggle her out of the lab and up to their cottage – for some home schooling. And there, out in the woods, the rapidly growing and maturing Dren, adds a third wheel to the young scientific couple’s relationship.

Splice is a good (if sometimes unintentionally funny) horror movie. There are some groaners, but the story itself is interesting and creepy and scary enough (with good special effects) to keep you watching. It’s an unapologetically B movie with the feel of early Cronenberg — like Scanners and the Brood – and with Guillermo del Toro adding his blessing as an executive producer. What more could you ask for?

Micmacs

Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring Dany Boon (who made the phenomenally successful “Welcome to the Sticks” / “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis”) “Micmacs” is the most captivating movie by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet in a long time. He’s best known for Amelie, but I liked Delicatessen, and City of the Lost Children better.

In Micmacs, Bazil, (Dany Boon) is a video store clerk who wants nothing more than to lipsynch all the lines from “Casablanca” while squeezing the goop out of La Vache Qui Rit foil triangles. But when he’s hit in the head with a stray bullet, his life collapses. He becomes a homeless busker on the streets of Paris. He’s rescued and adopted by a family of circus-like oddballs who live in a hidden lair inside an old junkyard. Each of them has a special ability – an inventor, a contortionist, someone who can calculate and estimate – who, cobbled together, form a sort of a salvaged material X-men team.

One day Bazil discovers that the headquarters of the company that made the bullet lodged in his brain is across the street from the company that made the land mine that blew up his father when he was a boy. So he vows revenge on both their houses, and his new family agrees to help him out. Rejecting high-tech surveillance, to find out their secrets, he bugs the offices of the two industrialists by dangling telephone receivers down their chimneys. With the new info, his plan goes into high gear.

This beautiful, retro-looking movie is made up of lots and lots of short funny vignettes strung together. Puns, pantomime, gags, gibberish talking, contraptions, fake sign language, fake accents and dialects, combined with multi-part stings, rube-goldberg-style contraptions and steampunk machinery pulled together from savaged materials. It’s like old Jaqques Tati movies, but rebooted to run at the speed of a TV cartoon. I definitely missed some of the jokes, and didn’t get all the French political references to Sarkozy and company. But that didn’t matter. You can appreciate this movie without a word of French, without even reading the subtitles.

It’s a very funny, cute, enjoyable, fast moving slapstick comedy, intricately made, starring lots of the same faces from previous Jeunet movies, along with some new ones. It’s a great geek flic with something for everyone: good romantic comedy, with chase scenes and explosions, too.

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