Jean-Pierre Jeunet (French: [ʒɑ̃ pjɛʁ ʒœnɛ]; born 3 September 1953) is a French film director, producer, and screenwriter. His films combine fantasy, realism, and science fiction to create idealized realities or to give relevance to mundane situations.
Jeunet debuted as a director with the acclaimed 1991 black comedy Delicatessen, collaborating with Marc Caro. Jeunet then co-wrote and -directed with Caro again on The City of Lost Children (1995). His work with science fiction and horror led him to direct Alien Resurrection (1997), the fourth film in the Alien film series and his first and thus far only experience with an American film. In 2001, Jeunet achieved his biggest success with the release of Amélie, which won him international acclaim; the film reached BBC's 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.
Jeunet is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important directors in modern French cinema, and his critical and commercial success has earned him two Academy Award nominations.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet was born in Roanne, France. He bought his first camera at the age of 17 and made short films while studying animation at Cinémation Studios. He befriended Marc Caro, a designer and comic book artist who became his longtime collaborator and co-director. They met at an animation festival in Annecy in the 1970s.
Together, Jeunet and Caro directed award-winning animations. Their first live action film was The Bunker of the Last Gunshots (1981), a short film about soldiers in a bleak futuristic world. Jeunet also directed numerous advertisements and music videos, such as Jean Michel Jarre's "Zoolook" (together with Caro).
Jeunet's films often resonate with the late twentieth-century French film movement cinéma du look and allude to themes and aesthetics involving German expressionism, French poetic realism, and the French New Wave.
Jeunet and Caro's first feature film was Delicatessen (1991), a melancholy comedy set in a famine-plagued post-apocalyptic world, in which an apartment building above a delicatessen is ruled by a butcher who kills people in order to feed his tenants.
They next made The City of Lost Children (1995), a dark, multi-layered fantasy film about a mad scientist who steals children's dreams so that he can live indefinitely. The success of The City of Lost Children led to an invitation to direct the fourth film in the Alien series, Alien Resurrection (1997). This is where Jeunet and Caro ended up going their separate ways, as Jeunet believed this to be an amazing opportunity whereas Caro was not interested in working on a big-budget Hollywood movie on which he would lack creative control. Caro ended up assisting for a few weeks with costumes and set design, but then he decided to start a solo career in illustration and computer graphics.
Jeunet directed Amélie (2001), the story of a woman who takes pleasure in doing good deeds but has trouble finding love herself, which starred Audrey Tautou. Amélie was a huge critical and commercial success worldwide and was nominated for several Academy Awards. For his work on the film, Jeunet won a European Film Award for Best Director.
In 2004, Jeunet released A Very Long Engagement, an adaptation of the novel by Sébastien Japrisot. The film, starring Audrey Tautou and Jodie Foster, chronicled a woman's search for her missing lover after World War I.
In 2009, he released Micmacs which is about a man and his friends who come up with an intricate and original plan to destroy two big weapons manufacturers.
Jeunet has also directed numerous commercials including a 2'25" film for Chanel N° 5 featuring his frequent collaborator Audrey Tautou.
In 2013, Jeunet released The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, an adaptation of Reif Larsen's book The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet that starred Kyle Catlett.
In 2016, Jeunet and Romain Segaud co-directed the three-minute stop-motion animation film Deux escargots s'en vont, based on a poem by Jacques Prévert.
Since his last release, Jeunet has tried to get other projects funded but has found it impossible to find investors willing to take a risk on his quirky films. He stated in 2019 that he may go to Netflix "as a last resort", and indeed his next film, Bigbug, was released by the streaming video company in 2022.
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