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Jean-Pierre Jeunet Builds a Better Mousetrap

Jean-Pierre Jeunet Builds a Better Mousetrap (photo)

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Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s idiosyncratic style was apparently from his apocalyptic comedy debut “Delicatessen” (co-directed with Marc Caro), and solidified with his dark fairy tale “The City of Lost Children,” his breakout mainstream hit “Amélie,” and now again with his latest, “Micmacs.” The comedy follows a lonely video store clerk who, after almost being killed by a gunshot to the head, teams up with a band of oddballs to take down the rival weapons manufacturers responsible for the bullet lodged in his cranium and the landmine that killed his father.

“Micmacs” is pure Jeunet, a gorgeously composed carnival-esque fable teeming with gizmos and knickknacks, eccentrics and clowns, and a smorgasbord of inventively constructed Rube Goldberg traps. While in New York, Jeunet sat down to discuss his newest effort’s political edge, his method for keeping his work fresh, and the way in which “Micmacs” represents a possible end to a creative cycle.

“Micmacs” has a lot in common with your previous work, yet it also features political undertones. What compelled you to deal with the issue of arms dealers?

I don’t want to say it’s political. I was just interested in those people. The first time I met them was during the editing of “The City of Lost Children.” We were on the street besides these guys, and they were very nice, and we thought it was strange. I did research, because even if it’s a slapstick comedy, you have to know what you’re talking about, or you’ll feel it’s fake. So we met people who manufactured weapons in Belgium, and they were very nice, and had a passion for technology. They want to do a better job than the other guy. And when you say “But you kill people!” they say “No, no, no, we sell weapons only to the good guys, not to the bad guys. We work for the Minister of Defense, not for the Minister of Attack.”

05262010_Micmacs2.jpgDespite that political edge, “Micmacs” is more lighthearted than your last film, “A Very Long Engagement.” Do you feel the need to balance comedic and dramatic films?

No, it was because I wanted to make a film very fast. With “Micmacs,” I could make three different films — the story of revenge, the story with the band of weird people, and the weapons issue — and I tried to make one film with three different feelings in it. I was concerned. I thought “Oh my god, this issue with the weapons deal, with the slapstick…” But to reassure me, I thought about “Dr. Strangelove” and “The Great Dictator,” and I thought okay, maybe its possible to make a comedy with a serious issue.

As a director with a very particular style, how do you make sure with each new project that you stay true to your creative instincts without repeating yourself?

I repeat myself. I think every director does the same thing all the time, but when you have a strong style, it’s more obvious. If you don’t have a style, nobody can see it. But everybody does the same thing. Except if you are, for example, Ang Lee or Ridley Scott, because they don’t write the script. The studio proposes a film to them, and they say okay, Middle Age, no problem, sci-fi, no problem.

05262010_Micmacs9.jpgAnd when you see Emir Kusturica or Tim Burton, it’s a little bit dangerous, because I love auteurs with a strong style, but of course, after a while, you get tired of the style, you think, “All the time, they do the same job.” That’s the reason I try to alternate between adapting books and doing my own things. I was supposed to make an adaptation of “Life of Pi,” and it would have been very different — a tiger and a kid in a lifeboat. And I would have made it with my own tweaks and recipes. For my next project, I’m looking for a book, just to change.

With “Micmacs,” maybe for me it’s the end of a loop, and I won’t make any more of this kind of movie. Maybe it’s a kind of compendium or recap of everything I’ve made. Every reference, every joke, every trick.

Speaking of jokes, “Delicatessen”‘s delicatessen is also in “Micmacs.” Why include that?

I wanted to make a joke with nothing to say about my own film. I wanted to make a joke [in “Micmacs”] where you could see Amélie with babies crying and Mathieu Kassovitz watching a football game with a beer. But Audrey Tatou, who was shooting “Coco Chanel,” refused. Kassovitz was okay with it, but not her. So I made the “Delicatessen” [reference] because I had Dominique Pinon with me. It’s not an homage, it’s just a wink-wink joke.

05262010_jeaunet1.jpgAs always, the film is overflowing with gadgets and trinkets. When constructing the story, how do you meld those disparate ideas into something?

There’s a recipe for that. If I see something funny or you tell me a joke, I take notes and it goes on my computer. And Guillaume Laurant, my partner, does the same thing. So when I find a concept for the film, we then open the box of details and we choose the best ones that could be in the film. Only when the box is packed with ideas, we start to write. That’s the reason I can’t make my own film each time, why I need to make an adaptation. Because I now have to get my box full. I’m dry now, it’s pretty empty.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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