Why I Love Living in Los Angeles
Last night I watched a double feature of Amelie (my favorite movie) and The City of Lost Children at the Aero in Santa Monica. Oh yeah, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (one of my favorite directors) was there for a Q & A between screenings!
Oh yeah, and the tickets were $10.
I was all by myself (Pamela had class to go to, and they have an upcoming showcase early this December, so she couldn't take off) which sucked, and the Aero doesn't serve coffee, but those are my only complaints.
Amelie is a great movie. It's a work of art. Everything is in its proper place, every character engages. It's filled to the brim with whimsey, and tugs at the heart strings without ever becoming mind-numbingly sentimental. Visual effects abound, but they are never extraneous to the narrative. The Color palate is lush and dream-like, and the whole thing makes me want to move to Montmarte and scoot around to odd jobs on a moped while Pam waits tables at The Two Windmills. If you haven't seen this film, what the hell is your problem?
The print was fairly clean. There were only a couple of places where damaged celluloid jarred the pace of the film.
The City of Lost Children was my first Jeunet film. I remember seeing the trailer for it before ... Waiting for Guffman? It was startlingly beautiful. Pam was in the next room, and I rewound the tape and made her watch it. The film stars Ron Perlman as One, a sideshow strongman whose little brother is kidnapped by a mysterious cult. One's search for his "petit frere" is joined by the precocious Miette (Judith Vittet). The movie is not as easy to experience as is Amelie; City plays like a nightmarish children's story. You really have to stay on top of what's going on. But it is really worth the investment to experience. I've seen City a few times, but not very recently. It was a joy to discover that the film is much better than I remember! And I for the first time realized that little nine year-old Miette is absolutely in love with One. (Jeunet manages to pull performances out of his child actors that M. Night Shyamalan would envy.)
The Q & A was pancaked between films. Jeunet is a very approachable, affable man. He spoke enthusiastically about his films and his up-coming projects. Here's stuff I learned:
- His next project may be an adaptation of Life of Pi, but he indicated that it's still stuck in development.
- He has plans to shoot a movie after Life of Pi similar in tone to Amelie, but showing another side of Paris, and featuring a male lead (maybe I should brush up on my French.)
- When Fox signed up Jeunet to direct Life of Pi, the first requirement he had was that Dominic Pinon (who has been in all of Jeunet's films) would have a place in the movie.
- The episode in Amelie with the suicidal goldfish is drawn directly from his own childhood.
- He said he hates realism, and could never shoot a film where the camera is just locked down on two people having a "real" conversation.
- He primarily writes only the visual content of his films. His writing partner handles most of the dialogue.
- Wishes he could cut out the shot of Amelie, dressed as Zorro, carving a "z" in Collignon's door.
- Jeunet lives in Montmarte, and frequents The Two Windmills. After Amelie, The Two Windmills became a popular photo-stop for tourists. Every now and then a tourist would ask Jeunet to step out of frame so they could take a clear photo! Sometimes he'd say "you know, I directed that movie" but they would never believe him. (I like to imagine a group of rowdy Americans unwittingly asking Jeunet to take their picture in front of the cafe, never wise to the fact that the auteur himself was framing them up!)
I almost forgot: At the very beginning of the night, we watched a short film entitled Foutaises ("Things I like, Things I Don't Like.") Shot before his first feature, Delicatessen, this black and white film is a sneak peak at some of the narrative tricks he would later employ in Amelie. Dominic Pinon addresses the camera and narrates a laundry list of things he likes and things he doesn't like, while stock footage intercut with new footage displays illustrations of each thing. Nine minutes long, and the whole house was rolling with laughter.
Did I mention tickets were only $10? If you're interested in this sort of thing and you're local, I highly recommend you check out www.americancinematheque.com and search their schedule with a fine-toothed comb for future coolness.