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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Whatever happened to Jean-Pierre Jeunet?


Some directors do not work very often once they make a well-received film or a blockbuster. Some take years to make their films and end up with fairly short filmographies.

One director who has not been especially active over the last few years is the brilliant Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Yet, since 2009 he has disappeared and my research does not seem to indicate that he will return to making films soon.

Born in 1953 in Loire, France, Jeunet and friend Marc Caro, a designer and comic book artist, made short films throughout the 1980s before they broke into feature films, with Jeunet leading the way.

The first feature film he released as a writer and director was 1991's Delicatessen.
The story deals with a microcosm of a post-apocalyptic society. It is a fun French film that evokes emotion out of the magic of food. Food is so rare it's invaluable and is used as a currency. There is also a Delicatessen in the story.

Jeunet's next film was 1995's The City of Lost Children. We already have a four-year break here. If he thought that he needed four years to ensure that this film was well-made, he was correct.

Mad scientist, Krank (Daniel Emilfork), kidnaps children so that he can take their dreams away from them. Unluckily for him, he kidnaps the little brother of carnival strongman One (Ron Perlman). One missions to rescue his brother. The movie was shown in a very limited number of cinemas worldwide, especially in the US. This was probably because it was "too French" for the US, or maybe just too strange. A video game was made of the film. The film actually made a loss on its relatively small budget, in terms of art films.

Nevertheless, someone must have seen it as Jeunet was approached to direct Alien Resurrection (1997). This was the fourth film in the Alien blockbuster series. It was well-received with quite a few fans of the series. It was better than Alien 3 but could not measure up to classics, Alien and Aliens.

Audiences had to wait another four years for another performance from this stylistic French director. Amelie, released in 2001 tells the story of Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), an innocent, naive girl from Paris. I will not give away many details of her adventures in the film but will say that she tries to help people in what she feels is a quaint life. It is a fantastic fable.

If Amelie was supposed to be a cute film, the next Jeunet feature which also starred Tautou was far from that. A Very Long Engagement released in 2004 is a powerful, sad film about the value of love. It tells the story of a young woman's search for her fiancé who disappeared from the trenches of the Somme during World War One.

Then, five years later, Jeunet released Micmacs (2009). A group comes up a plan to destroy two weapons manufacturers. This film has had a very small release and its story is rather bizarre in my opinion. But, judging by Jeunet's previous work, I have to see it.

So, what's your favourite Jeunet film? Post a comment to let us know.

Alistair Anderson

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