Jeunet, Jean-Pierre 1955–

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Jeunet, Jean-Pierre 1955–

PERSONAL: Born September 3, 1955, in Roanne, Loire, France; married Liza Sullivan. Education: Studied animation at Cinémation Studios.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Bertrand de Labey, Artmédia, 20, avenue Rapp, 75007 Paris, France.

CAREER: Film writer and director. Codirector of numerous films with Marc Caro, including the animated shorts L'Évasion, 1978, and Le Manège, 1980; director of feature film Alien: Resurrection, 1997. Also director of various television commercials, for products such as Lactel and Malabar, and music videos, including Etienne Daho's Tombe pour la France. Cannes Film Festival, "Courts-métrages" (shorts) jury member and Grand Jury member, 1998; Cinéfondation (provides funds for young directors), head.

AWARDS, HONORS: Best Director and Prize of the Catalan Screenwriter's Critic and Writer's Association, Catalonian International Film Festival, 1991, Best Film not in the English Language nomination, Film Awards, British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), 1993, all for Delicatessen; Golden Palm nomination, Cannes Film Festival, 1995, for La Cité des enfants perdus; Audience Award, Canberra International Film Festival, People's Choice award, Toronto International Film Festival, and Berlin European Film Award, all 2001, all for Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain; César Award for best picture and best director, Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinema, Best Screenplay—Original, Film Awards, BAFTA, Best Foreign Feature Film, Amanda Awards (Norway), Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Discover Screenwriting award nomination, American Screenwriters Association, Best Film not in the English Language nomination, Film Awards, BAFTA, and David Lean Award for Direction nomination, BAFTA, all 2002, all for Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain; International Achievement in Filmmaking Award, ShoWest, 2002; Best Film not in the English Language nomination, Film Awards, BAFTA, César Award nominations for best picture, best screenplay and best director, Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinema, all 2005, for Un long dimanche de fiançailles; named member of the Legion d'Honneur, France, 2006.



(With Gilles Adrien and Marc Caro; also actor and co-director, editor, cinematographer, set decorator and costume designer, all with Marc Caro) Le bunker de la dernière rafale (released in America as The Bunker of the Last Gunshots), Zootrope, 1981.

(And director) Pas de repos pour Billy Brakko (animated short film), 1984.

(With Bruno Delbonnel; also director and editor) Foutaises (short film; released in United Kingdom as Things I Like, Things I Don't Like), Zootrope, 1989.

(With Guillaume Laurant; and director) Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (released in America as Amélie), Victoires Productions, 2001.

(With Guillaume Laurant; and director) Un long dimanche de fiançailles (released in America as A Very Long Engagement), Warner Brothers, 2004.


(And director, with Marc Caro) Delicatessen, Victoires Productions, 1991; Miramax, 1992.

(And director, with Marc Caro) La Cité des enfants perdus (released in America as The City of Lost Children), Victoires Productions, 1995.

Contributor to Fluide Glacial.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A film adaptation of Yann Martel's Life of Pi, for Fox 2000 Pictures, expected 2007.

SIDELIGHTS: Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of those rare screenwriters who also directs all of his own works to ensure his original vision is not tampered with. Beginning his film-making career by collaborating with Marc Caro on short films, both animated and live action, Jeunet ventured into feature film with 1991's Delicatessen. Written with Caro and Gilles Adrien, Delicatessen is a black comedy set in a post-apocalyptic world where hunger is the norm. In a rundown apartment building perched atop the remains of a deli, a myriad of strange characters—including a woman constantly dreaming up new, unsuccessful ways to kill herself and a man cohabiting with assorted amphibians—lead dreary lives. Perhaps the strangest of these tenants is the deli's butcher, who feels that it is his job to keep his neighbors as well-fed as possible. To this end, he finds a new source of meat—newcomers to the building are ultimately killed and served to the longtime residents. This seems to work out well for all except the victims, until a good-hearted clown moves in and attempts to win the heart of the butcher's daughter. People contributor Joanne Kaufman found the movie "hilarious," and noted "an undeniable sweetness," despite the fact that the film "occasionally gets mired in metaphor and symbolism." Georgia Harbison, writing in Time, was far more laudatory. The film "can be lots of fun," she commented. Harbison concluded: "Part circus, part zoo, the film's milieu is a nice metaphor for the rudderless morals of post-Everything Europe."

The 1995 release of another Jeunet-Caro joint effort, La Cité des enfants perdus, was also released in the United States as The City of Lost Children. The film is purportedly a children's movie, despite the "R" rating it was given in America. The action moves between a dystopian city and an oil rig long unused for its original purpose. Though there are subplots involving bizarre characters, such as a set of twins so close they finish each other's actions, and a former circus owner whose trained fleas assist him in controlling the minds of others, the main focus of the story involves a madman, Krank, created by a scientist and living on the oil rig with six clones of that scientist, as well as a midget and a talking brain in a jar. Krank was created without the ability to dream, and he sends out minions to kidnap small children so he can transfer their dreams to himself, through the use of a sinister-looking machine. When the little brother of a carnival strongman named One is taken by Krank's thugs, One goes on a search-and-rescue mission, enlisting the aid of street urchin Miette along the way. Stephen Holden, in a New York Times review of the film, observed that the movie "carries little allegorical resonance. While its story seems to warn about the loss of imagination in an overly technologized world, it is too disjointed to carry much weight." Los Angeles Times writer Kevin Thomas disagreed, noting that "The City of Lost Children is a stunningly surreal fantasy, a fable of longing and danger, of heroic deeds and bravery, set in a brilliantly realized world of its own." Thomas stated: "It is one of the most audacious, original films of the year."

After taking a break from writing to direct Alien: Resurrection in America, Jeunet returned to France to resume making his own movies, this time with cowriter Guillaume Laurant. Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, released as simply Amélie in the United States, is Jeunet's most acclaimed effort to date, earning the adulation of critics and the viewing public alike. The story, which French Politics, Culture and Society contributor Sylvie Waskiewicz considered "a poetic love story with comic touches" and a "hip antidote to the recent trend towards gritty realism," centers around Amélie Poulain, an unusual young woman whose life story, along with her strange list of likes and dislikes, is shared with the viewer as the film opens. The discovery of a small, long-forgotten box hidden inside her apartment's walls sends Amélie on a journey to find the owner of the box and, subsequently, attempt to improve the lives of others with small, anonymous gestures. Along the way she discovers joy—and ultimately love—for herself. Variety contributor Lisa Nesselson found Amélie "fresh, funny, [and] exquisitely bittersweet," noting that "the beauty of the film's mechanism … is that every poignant or silly little detail contributes to the story." Rex Roberts, in an Insight on the News review, called the movie "a thoroughly amusing entertainment that transcends its genre," and stated that "the wit with which the writers have woven together the subplots, all illustrating the timeless truths of hope, faith and charity, is rare in cinema."

Jeunet and Laurant once again collaborated to write 2004's Un long dimanche de fiançailles, released in the United States as A Very Long Engagement. The film was embroiled in controversy over its funding. Because the film was produced in part by a French subsidiary of Warner Brothers, many decried the additional use of grant money meant strictly for French film-making. Variety writer Nesselson, however, commented that "financing is—or should be—beside the point, for the result is French to the tips of its wide-screen celluloid toes." A Very Long Engagement follows the tale of Mathilde and Manech, young lovers separated when Manech leaves to fight in World War I. Manech attempts self-mutilation to get excused from duty, leading to a court martial and sentence of death. He is led to the 'no man's land' between the French and German lines and left for dead. Mathilde, however, believes that if he had truly died, she would know. When the war ends, she hires a detective to find out exactly what happened to Manech, also doing some investigating on her own. While Bruce Handy, writing in a Vanity Fair review, noted that the film "is less concerned with combat than it is with the perseverance of true love against awful odds," Nesselson disagreed, observing that it is a "love story with haunting digressions into misfortune, but in its portrait of the trenches and the consequences of soul-searing combat, [the] result is as antiwar as Kubrick's Paths of Glory."



Entertainment Weekly, June 5, 1992, Owen Gleiberman, review of Delicatessen, p. 39; July 26, 1996, Nisid Hajari, review of The City of Lost Children p. 62; November 9, 2001, Lisa Schwarzbaum, "The It Fille: A French Beauty Brings Joy to Those around Her in Amélie," p. 83.

Film Journal International, November, 2001, Harry Haun, "Fantasy in Paris: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Delights Audiences with Tale of Amélie," p. 14.

French Politics, Culture and Society, spring, 2002, Sylvie Waskiewicz, review of Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, p. 152.

Guardian (London, England), May 18, 1995, Derek Malcolm, review of The City of Lost Children, p. 2.

Insight on the News, November 19, 2001, Rex Roberts, review of Amélie, p. 29.

Los Angeles Times, December 22, 1995, Kevin Thomas, review of The City of Lost Children p. 8.

Nation, November 12, 2001, B. Ruby Rich, review of Amélie, p. 44.

New Statesman, October 1, 2001, Philip Kerr, review of Amélie, p. 66.

New York Times, December 15, 1995, Stephen Holden review of The City of Lost Children, p. C34

People, June 22, 1992, Joanne Kaufman, review of Delicatessen, p. 21; December 13, 2004, review of A Very Long Engagement, p. 31.

Time, March 20, 1992, Georgia Harbison, review of Delicatessen, p. 14; November 12, 2001, review of Amélie, p. 93; November 29, 2004, Richard Corliss, review of A Very Long Engagement, p. 148.

Time International, May 21, 2001, Bruce Crumley, review of Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain p. 71.

Vanity Fair, December, 2004, Bruce Handy, review of A Very Long Engagement, p. 150.

Variety, April 30, 2001, Lisa Nesselson, review of Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, p. 26; November 1, 2004, Lisa Nesselson, review of A Very Long Engagement, p. 27.


International Movie Database, (February 28, 2006), biography of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet Home Page, (February 28, 2006).