This post is part of Agitation of The Mind's Jeunet retrospective. Neil Fulwood has been putting up great stuff all week, and if you haven't been reading it thus far. I suggest you start.
There are two conflicting schools of thought on Jeunet. The first being he’s a whimsical genius who makes singular films. The other says that he was only a front for Marc Caro’s genius and once those two split Jeunet began making films so sugary that merely watching them will kill diabetics and give dentists cavities.
While I’ve never thrown in with Jeunet’s harshest critics there’s no denying that the idea is a persuasive one (Given of course, that one sets aside the wonderful Amelie). With Caro Jeunet made Delicatessen and City Of The Lost Children. By himself he made Alien Resurrection a film that makes me break into hives just thinking about it. And A Very Long Engagement and Micmacs. Both fine films (I think. I’m not going to lie I need to watch MicMac’s again before I feel comfortable giving it any kind of objective judgment, when I viewed it at BNAT my brain was pretty much mush), but both lack the focus of his earlier work.
Perhaps the easiest way to explore this is to take a look at the work in the shorts he did pre Caro. There’s not much of it, in fact one of the things that makes Jeunet such an odd filmmaker is just how small his filmography is. You could watch all his films in a day if you had the inclination.
To watch Fountaises is to watch the work of a filmmaker fully formed. Its not much plot wise, nothing more then the Jeunet muse Dominic Pinon saying what he likes and doesn’t, while Jeunet literalizes it, in unexpected ways. The sequence carries a shall we say strong familial resemblance to a few of Amelie’s famous sequences. But this is more proof that Jeunet knew what he wanted prior to meeting Caro and knew what he wanted to do afterwards, then anything else.
If anything what Fountaises suggests to me is Caro is the one who instigated the flights of fancy that, Jeunet is often criticized for. While the film’s tone is certainly heightened, to say the least, it contains none of the out and out fantastical that Jeunet’s films are so well known for, none of the Gilliam style fractures with reality.
There’s not much that can be told about Foutaise, the film is such a quick watch and so readily available that it almost seems silly to try. It’s a short with a crystallized sense of style, a clear feeling of authorship, and whose chief virtue is its energy and off kilter point of view. I believe you can say the same thing about everyone of Jeunet’s films, and certainly of Jeunet himself.