Cheat Sheet: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Date of Birth:
September 3, 1953
Place of Birth:
Delicatessen, Amélie, Micmacs, The City of Lost Children, Alien Resurrection
What you probably already know:
Jean-Pierre Jeunet is relatively well-known in the English-speaking world, largely thanks to the critical and commercial success of his 2001 comedy Amélie and, to a lesser extent, his oldest film Delicatessen, which is unspeakably odd and essential viewing for anyone who suspects that in a post-apocalyptic scenario vegetarians would probably retreat to the sewers. Although we’re loath to make country-wide generalisations (except about Macedonia, which is self-evidently overflowing with twats), Jeunet has achieved the relatively rare feat of becoming an international commercial success whilst continuing to make films incisive enough to hang onto the jazz-and-cigarettes crowd.
Jeunet’s latest film, 2009’s Micmacs, lost tens of millions of dollars despite being generally well received by critics. Drawing heavily on his long-standing tradition of inventive silliness, it could be that this latest flight of fancy (its full French title translates as Non-Stop Shenanigans was simply a whimsical bridge too far for less receptive Anglophone audiences. There’s nothing new on the horizon, but we’ll be keeping our ears to the ground – or, as the man himself might prefer, our violins to the table, or our shrews to the grater or God knows what.
What you might not know
Jeunet gained traction in Hollywood when, shortly after finishing his script for Amélie, he was inexplicably chosen to direct Alien Resurrection, the fourth instalment in the ‘watch Sigourney Weaver go fucking mental’ series. He enraged studio execs by briefly insisting that the newborn Alien should have both male and female genitals (image removed to save your eyes – it’s here if you’re a bit odd), and made Sigourney Weaver undergo weeks of basketball training so she could pull off that shot on her first try. He also wanted a scene in which a mosquito lands on cloned alien-weirdy Ripley and is vaporised by ingesting her acidic blood, but pulled the scene when some long-suffering VFX gonk (presumably) told him that it would cost more than all his other films put together.
Alien Resurrection is just one of the films which has featured elements of Jeunet’s trademark recycled cast – actors including Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Dominique Pinon, Rufus (we want a mononym!) and, for some reason, Ron Perlman have all appeared repeatedly in different Jeunet projects. He also tows editors, cinematographers and set-dressers with him from film to film, allowing a progressive refining of his distinctive visual style. Christ knows what they spend on therapy after a few years at the coalface of his crazy French mind.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet quote:
“Cinema since the New Wave always seems to be about a couple fighting in the kitchen. I prefer to write positive stories.”
What to say at a dinner party:
“It’s such a shame that something as mundane as budget constraints put a halt to his proposed adaptation of Life of Pi…”
What not to say at a dinner party:
“Amélie was alright, but it’s a poor man’s Alien Resurrection.”
Whatever happened to the Glass Man?