Do you know Jeunet?

I was recently asked by the Editor if I would like to review the latest Jean-Pierre Jeunet film, The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.  This is like asking Garfield the Cat if he’d like some lasagna!!  Of course I’d love to see and review this movie, as the director is one of the most original and talented guys out there.  Despite being world-famous for Amélie, I can think of many other films he’s made that, to me, are every bit as good…and perhaps a bit better.  Below are a few Jeunet films that you really must try.

Delicatessen —: A+

Delicatessen is one of the weirdest and most original films you can find. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic future that looks a bit like the world of Terry Gilliam’s film, Brazil. It is supposed to be the future but the design is purely rooted in the past–as if in some alternate reality Earth.

In this awful world, there isn’t much to eat and society has disintegrated. The film is all at a dilapidated apartment building where the tenants survive thanks to the landlord–who butchers newcomers for the consumption of all!! Despite being a very dark subject, this cannibal fantasy is actually quite funny and charming (that is, apart from when they are hacking the unsuspected into cutlets).

Into this sick micro-society comes Louisan–the next unsuspecting victim. Now that I think about it, this film abounded with strange-looking cast members–as if Fellini somehow were involved with the project. However, the landlord’s daughter falls for this new guy and is determined to do her best to keep him alive!

If the movie had not been done with such a light and comedic touch, it would have been yet another schlocky teen blood-feast film. But with the tongue in cheek attitude and lots of wonderfully dark little vignettes, the film is remarkably charming–even if it is about cannibals.

Exceptionally well written, amazing visuals (you can’t help but be riveted) and a wonderful freshness make this a very enjoyable treat.   And don’t worry, it is NOT a gory film and is fine for teens as well as adults.

Micmacs —: A

Dany Boon stars as a man who is severely injured in a senseless accident. As a result, he loses his home and his job and survives by living on the streets. Eventually, he’s approached by a man representing a group of weirdos who live among the refuse and scavenge. However, these are not ordinary homeless folks–many of them have amazing skills–such as extreme flexibility and the ability to act as a human cannonball!  In many ways, they are a bit like the folks from Mystery Men and they are strange yet lovable.

Boon has an ax to grind. It seems that the bullet and gun that injured him were made by some VERY irresponsible arms dealers–the sort who have no scruples and no sense of responsibility. So, Boon decides he will destroy these people–and his new friends are eager to help. Their plan is complex and much like what you’d see in an episode of Mission: Impossible if it starred people from a carnival! And, despite the seriousness of the matter, it all manages to be funny and a bit dark–but mostly funny.

The film has TONS of weird and almost impossible to describe moments. It’s a great example of a film you can’t really describe but one you just need to see for yourself–especially since Jeunet is such a visual director. And, it is well worth it for many reasons other than just the highly imaginative plot. The acting is great, the characters terrific and the director’s style is second to none.

A Very Long Engagement —: A+

During WWI, a man is lost in the Somme and no one can quite account for him.  He’s assumed dead and might have been shot by a firing squad, but because no one can say for sure, his fiancée (Audrey Tautou) refuses to give up searching for him—even though he disappeared several years ago.  She is determined and the trail leads to some very strange characters (the one played by Marion Cotillard is truly demented).

While Amélie is her most famous film, overall, I think this is Tautou’s best film. From start to finish, the film screams “Quality”–with amazing cinematography (color with a slight sepia tint–perfect for the era), excellent acting, amazing battle sequences and wonderful direction. This is a heck of an adventure film that keeps you guessing from start to finish. And, oddly, I have nothing negative to say about the film at all, though I should recommend this film be seen by adults due to violence and brief nudity. Everyone associated with this film deserves to be proud–excellent throughout.

So there you have it—three excellent films by Jeunet that I can pretty much guarantee you’ll love.  Try them and you’ll see why I think he’s about the most exciting director out there.  It’s just a shame he’s only made about a dozen films, as I want MORE!

Article by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer