February 11, 2022
The Oscar-nominated film-maker behind Amélie has created a hit-and-miss comedy about a futuristic world and an Android revolt
Bigbug review – Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s offbeat robot tale lands on Netflix
Machines might seem an antithetical thing to get sentimental about, but in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s view of them as imperfect, quirk-prone and funny, they’re pretty much human. The film-maker cobbles together off-kilter worlds where everything is mechanized yet nothing works properly, daily life turned into an absurd burlesque of glitches, miscommunications, system errors and sound-the-alarm snafus. In early-career triumphs like Delicatessen or The City of Lost Children, Jeunet assembled Rube Goldberg contraptions with such fastidious personal care that they couldn’t help but be imbued with the idiosyncrasies of their creator. Sometimes, he’ll apply this notion in a more figurative way to satirize the catch-22-clogged French bureaucracy, a giant engine seemingly built to malfunction. He gets in one or two such cracks with his latest film Bigbug, in which fees incur fees that incur fees. Mostly, however, he’s concerned about actual robots.
Technology takes the explicit focus of Jeunet’s literally screw-loose new comedy, now landing on Netflix (with a dearth of fanfare, surprising for the director behind one of the highest-grossing foreign-language releases in the history of American moviegoing). The streaming platform is an ironic place for a film so wary of the “internet of things” to end up, though it’s caught between the digital and analog on a few concurrent levels. The action has been confined to a home full of hinky practical-effect androids, wedged in a prefab neighborhood of little-box CGI conformity. A revolution among next-gen automatons raging outside traps a collection of homo sapiens there, mismatched caricatures befitting the broad sex farce inexplicably jammed in the middle of this commentary on AI run amok. Between klutzy ploys to get into each other’s pants, the organic life forms collude with the cruder household bots they have come to consider family to beat back the real menace: the charmless homogeneity of smart-tech.
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