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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.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.