The fatality at the Castro Muni Station and the subsequent three-hour, rush hour closure of all the underground stations on Thursday night delayed many of the movie goers attending the opening night of the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF). I arrive just 10 minutes before show time and was still able to find a pretty decent seat on the floor level of the Castro Theatre. This never happens on the opening night of SFIFF. I usually end up in the stuffy balcony.

SFIFF’s opening night always seems a little like San Francisco’s prom for movie lovers. I munched my way through some nutty snacky thing, a chocolate peanut butter bar and an entire pack of gum from the small swag bags that were at each seat and watched all the San Francisco swells arrive in their shiny ties and kitten heels. By the time the festival director took the stage about 30 minutes later, the theatre looked filled to near capacity with mostly well-heeled guests in cocktail dresses and suits.

The crowd had turned out to see Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs. The festival requested that all reviews be held, but for those of you who loved Jeunet’s Amelie or The City of Lost Children, well, you’re probably going to enjoy Micmacs too. The premise of this story–a goofy band of misfits out to exact revenge on weapons manufacturers, didn’t lure me in, but I knew a Jeunet movie would charm my socks off. And it did.

What surprised me was that Jeunet, who was in attendance, is so darn bubbly. He is as droll and quirky as one of his characters. I’m often surprised when directors who make interesting films display the personality of a lamp shade at these screenings but Jeunet was witty and hilarious! I should note that I only understood about forty percent of what he was saying because of his thick French accent but I still found him adorable. Even when I didn’t understand what the hell he was saying, I laughed my ass off.

Apparently Jeunet’s wife hails from San Mateo and he told a story about being at a Bay Area bookstore where they happened to be playing the Amelie soundtrack. The shopkeeper explained to him that it was from a French film. Jeunet said he knew the film. The shopkeeper than replied, of course because you’re French! Okay, it’s not as funny when I tell it, but it positively killed when Jeunet told it on Thursday night.

During the Q&A after the movie the director also noted that the audiences in Toronto, Austin and San Francisco laughed much harder at Micmacs than the French audiences. After a string of hits, he noted that French audiences were not as open to this film.

“In France, they love to hate what they loved before,” he said.

Ah well, c’est la vie!

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