French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet is best known for his longtime collaboration with art director and comic book artist Marc Caro. Often directing films with a strong fantasy element, Jeunet’s visual style is almost instantly recognizable, with an incredible attention to detail and use of wide-angle lenses that distorts the picture for a ‘fish-eye’ look.
Jeunet was born in Roanne, Loire, France, and became entranced with films at an early age. Films affected him so much that his parents wondered what was wrong with their son – after watching Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in The West, a young Jeunet was rendered speechless for several days. Imagination, for Jeunet, was his only way of escape from his daily life
At the age of 17, Jeunet bought his first camera and began to shoot short films while studying animation at Cinémation Studios. From there, he ventured out on a career in directing television commercials, during which he met comic book artist and designer Marc Caro. They soon teamed up to direct short animated films, which garnered many awards and the attention of the film industry.
Their first feature film collaboration was Delicatessen (1991), which was a dark comedy about tenants in an apartment building whose landlord is a cannibalistic butcher. Jeunet and Caro’s collaboration resulted in Jeunet dealing with the actors, while Caro handled the technical elements during the shoot. Its quirky visual style and dark subject matter made the film stand out, and it did incredibly well on the international festival circuit, even winning four César awards.
Their follow up, The City of Lost Children (1995) was also made with the same division of labor, but soon Jeunet began to take sole directorial duty, with his first solo feature, the Hollywood sci-fi action thriller, Alien: Resurrection (1997), the fourth film in the Alien franchise. Caro would still work on Jeunet’s films, but in a design capacity, something that continued into Jeunet’s return to French cinema with Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001), known internationally as Amélie.
While Jeunet had become synonymous with the dark vision he and Caro would imbue with their collaborations, Amélie was a notable departure, with its story centered on a quirky girl and her quest for true love. It was imaginative and visually alive, and audiences flocked to see this film more than any of Jeunet’s previous films. To everyone’s surprise, the film was rejected from Cannes, but did well internationally, even garnering a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the Academy Awards.
A recent film, Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009), is a comedy set in the world of illegal gun trading.