Having made only six films, Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a French director with a distinct personal style and vision. In an interview given upon the release of Micmacs (2009), he was asked,
How do you come up with these ideas in your films? They’re always rich with color and so many details. Also, do you use a lot of wide lenses?
To which he responded,
” I would say it’s a question of style. I like directors with a strong style where you recognize the style after 10 seconds. When you see a film from Tim Burton, you recognize immediately that it’s Tim Burton. It’s the same thing with Terry Gilliam. A long time ago, it was Fellini. I don’t want to compare myself with these great directors. I love to shoot with a short lens and use warm colors. I love to do that. “
Upon watching his last three films, Amelie (2001), A Very Long Engagement (2004), and Micmacs (2009), his style is quite prominent and captivating with his strong use of colour combined with characters that are so unconventional. He creates an atmosphere that completely strays from the conventional path into a realm of unique abstraction as he builds highly complex characters that have unusual personality traits, hobbies, and physical quirks, yet somehow they manage to be so approachable and deeply loveable in their odd manner.
Amelie was one of my favourite films released during the last decade merely for how different it was! Jeunet’s style is easily distinguishable in this film, as the title character Amelie, played by the delightful Audrey Tautou, is socially awkward yet takes it upon herself to go on various curious adventures that eventually guide her to the man of her dreams, whom is equally as unique as she. The film brings into focus the concept of fate and coincidence, illustrating how things can be controlled yet appear to happen by chance. From the photo booth pictures collected in Amelie’s scrapbook, the love affair in the cafe, the obtuse food stand owner, the nostalgic treasure box, and the solitary neighbour who repaints the same piece of art each year, each small act adds to the compelling narrative and delivers a small dose of happiness, which is Amelie’s ultimate goal throughout the film. She is a secret matchmaker and guardian angel to those around her, attempting to provide moments of contentment to those who seem to have lost all hope. Her large eyes and peculiar smile are central to her quiet character, as they tell a story beyond words and engage the audience from start to finish.
Micmacs is just as quirky as Amelie, as each character is essentially an outcast of society, yet together they create this wonderfully endearing bond that resembles most modern day families. My favourite character in this crime fantasy comedy is Remington (played by Omar Sy), who is an ethnographer that speaks in clichés. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a common-day phrase that makes you wonder how long it took to write a script where all of these sayings somewhat fit in, and if it is actually possible to speak like this in real life!
Besides Tautou, who is also in A Very Long Engagement, the characters played by Dominique Pinon in all three films are quite entertaining, showing his range in acting as all three characters are rather different. In Amelie, he is an over-protective and obsessive ex-boyfriend of a girl who works in the cafe with Tautou. He is obnoxious, overbearing, insulting, but has a turn for the better with a little help from the matchmaker. In A Very Long Engagement, he plays Mathilde’s (Tautou) uncle, and is a very loving and obedient character, completely different from his previous role. Then in Micmacs, he plays the role of the human cannonball, again playing a role nothing like the other two yet similar in the way that he is unforgettable.
Another actor I am absolutely enthralled by is Gaspard Ulliel, who plays Tautou’s love interest in A Very Long Engagement. Though he does not say much and is equally shy like Tautou, their quiet and beautiful chemistry cannot be ignored, as you wait patiently hoping Tautou will be able to find him after he has been presumed dead. If you are not moved to tears when they are reunited, then I must declare that you lack a beating heart. Jeunet brilliantly captures the resilience of love in this romantic war-tale and illustrates the intangible power of passion, hope, and indomitable will.