Monday, July 21, 2014

Fun With Illustrator

This is an original piece by the way. Use it if you feel like it. Credit is appreciated. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Activism Looks a Lot Like Self-Indulgence

I am an artist and I have a confession.

Recently I went to a small arts and makers collective in Las Vegas, NM and heard a lecture from a member of a Los Angeles based arts organization whose focus is on time based, interactive projects with the goal of allowing people look at culture from a different perspective. I purposefully left out the names of these organizations because this confession has little to do with them. What I really want to talk about is a general trend I see in contemporary art and cultural organizations around the country, but especially in cities that consider themselves hubs for progressive community engagement.

I work for a cultural and arts based organization so I spend a lot of time attending lectures of this sort. I absolutely love my job and I am able to meet and interact with people from a wide range of backgrounds and a variety of perspectives. I also have the opportunity to work with youth in my community and introduce them to the power and importance of creativity in all its forms. A lot of my work is what I would consider, "boots on the ground." I spend most of my time interacting with the wider, non-arts community, and working with people mostly ignored by society such as those experiencing homelessness, incarcerated youth, drop-outs, undocumented immigrant families, and students and teachers inside some of this country's lowest performing schools.

While my job is endlessly rewarding, I am often faced with situations within the art world that make me question the effectiveness of the industry in terms of tangible cultural and societal change. I often meet people working in the non-profit arts arena who are great artists with lofty ideals and bleeding hearts. I also meet a lot of people who are incredibly successful, interested in art, but woefully misinformed about the role and purpose of creativity in the 21st century.

In these circles I hear the word 'conversation' a lot. Phrases like, "let's have a conversation," or "this project is meant to spark a conversation," and "the only way to bridge the wealth, race, gender or class gap is to sit down and have a conversation." I get so tired of that word, conversation. On the surface, talking to people is the best way to understand their perspectives. It is obviously a great place to start. But when does a conversation lead to action? When does a dialogue sparked from an arts perspective lead to actual change? From my view point, I would say rarely, if ever. When it does spearhead any sense of change, it is fleeting at best.

For many people simply having the conversation allows them to feel like they've contributed. They have made their voice heard, they have been validated and that's what's ultimately important. But for the most part, these people exist in an echo chamber where they only hear their own ideas regurgitated back to them. There is no real challenge. There is no real demand for action. There are just exclusive groups of like-minded people creating self-indulgent artistic conversations, patting themselves on the back, while trying to pass it off as activism or worse, cultural change. 

I meet people who will endlessly complain about the dismal state of education, the economy, energy regulation, politics, and on and on. Santa Fe alone has a massive collection of community based arts organizations dealing with these issues, far more than a city of nearly 70,000 ought to have. Many of these organizations do great work, and I don't want to detract from them. But some arts based nonprofits, with massive budgets, engage in work that is essentially ineffective and irrelevant when attempting to deal with real world problems and cultural shifts facing our city. People are so focused on their utopia and sexy ideals that they see the world through rose colored glasses and ignore, if not perpetuate, the flaws of the status-quo. And Santa Fe isn't even the worst. In fact, I think most organizations in this city do the best they can and I respect that.

The Los Angeles based arts collective and its lecturer (we'll call him Joe) who showcased work in the Las Vegas, NM presentation is a prime example of an organization that claims their practice aims to to begin a conversation, yet the work they do is inaccessible to those who would have the most to offer (and gain) in such a setting. The lack of accessibility allows this organization to preach their deeply flawed mission with impunity.

The collective did a project called Breaking into Cars for Kids, in which they brought together children and parents to teach them how to break into locked cars as an exercise in parent/child interaction. This gave the presentation's audience quite a fit of the giggles, "Oh, how cute!" This was sold to us as a workshop really focused on the workings and mechanisms inside of vehicles. The end goal of the workshop was for children and parents to gain the knowledge of what it takes to break into a car that isn't yours, which is something I find problematic.

"For most kids (and adults), modern cars are simply these gleaming, aggressive-faced jellybeans that house air-conditioning units and MP3 players while they idle in traffic. But underneath their shiny surface lurks all manner of exciting machinery that needs some demystification. That’s where we come in. In this class, we'll focus on a few key aspects of cars, and our interactions with them, while learning a bit about the physics and mechanics behind how it all works. This is a hands-on workshop, with an actual car to break in and out of. Taught by car historian and inventor Jason Torchinsky, who has already successfully guided at least six children in Los Angeles towards a future in grand theft auto."
- This Art Collective doing a project in my Hometown (grr..)

(My Inner Dialogue): What the fuck? Breaking into cars is a crime. You better hope to fucking God that one of the kids involved in your workshop isn't killed trying to take his neighbors Mustang for a joy ride. This is so ridiculously irresponsible. 

For me, this project is what happens when arts collectives aren't racially and culturally diverse.  More than anything, this was an exercise in privilege with an absolute blind eye to the wider, gaping, implications. Not only were the families involved in this workshop racially white and nationally American, they were also absolutely above suspicion due not only to the color of their skin, but the shadow cast by this trendy LA based arts organization. This project operated unopposed, unchallenged and was marketed and facilitated by a liberal, arts based, community organization whose staff is also racially white. There was no one involved in this workshop who said, "Hey - what are we doing here? What message are we sending?

What would this workshop have looked like if it was black or Latino families? What about Muslim families or immigrant  families? Wouldn't that have forced a more constructive conversation, the type of conversation this organization claims to spark? Even if this project was only designed for the least suspicious among us, only those of us who could get away with such a crime without being arrested or worse, why claim it is being used to broaden perspectives? We all know that white people, especially mid-western housewives and their angelic children are far above reproach. My sneaking suspicion is that they wanted to be controversial (breaking into cars is so titillating), that's something that looks subversive when printed on a flyer and hung up at a coffee shop. But they didn't want to actually dive into the diverse cultural implications an action like that can have for anyone who isn't white because that would have forced them to engage with people of color. 

After the lecture, I asked Joe, "you say that your work is meant to broaden perspectives and introduce people to different cultures. But which people and whose culture? For example, with the project about breaking into cars, if this was my brother [a black man] learning to break into a vehicle, wouldn't he be at risk? He could be arrested or killed. Wouldn't this have meant something different if it was kids who look like me learning to break into cars?"

I think it's a fair question, but when I presented it to Joe, he was unable to answer in meaningful fashion. In fact, Joe seemed taken aback by my comments. He was not used to being challenged, that much was clear. As a professor at a highly respected California university, who was I as a 25 year old kid, to suggest that his work was self-indulgent, irresponsible, morally ambiguous and culturally blind?

To be fair, the idea of the project didn't bother me on the surface. In fact, I think the idea of teaching workshops about the mechanisms involved in vehicle maintenance, along with offering opportunities for parents to engage with their children, are both interesting and worthy endeavors. However, what the project ignored is so obvious it must be stated. Teaching an unlawful skill to white kids is seen as cheeky, cute and harmless without any subtext or introspection, simply a way for parents to bond with their children and have a bit of fun on a Saturday. But if the same project was facilitated using families from the North Side of Minneapolis or, or South Side Chicago or The War Zone in Albuquerque, or inner-city Detroit, this project would not have come across as quaint and adorable as it was presented. But would it have provoked a deeper conversation about crime, race, privilege, and inequality within the justice system? Would a project like that have positioned the collective on the side of real change and real dialogue? I don't know the answer, you tell me.

The breaking into cars project might seem like a mild indiscretion or one half-baked idea from an otherwise cutting edge and trendy arts collective. But unfortunately, that isn't the case. The collective did another project in which they brought together different art forms for a day of artistic immersion. It sounds great on the surface, right? The mediums included knitting, cooking and dressing in drag. "Oh how fun!" But did this project even attempt to discuss any of the systemic problems present in drag culture and by extension the inequality and hostility directed towards trans and trans questioning people? Nope, not by a long shot.

Here again, we have a project that is marketed as a platform to create cultural conversations, but doesn't bother itself with deep questions. They didn't, at any point, take a moment to discuss or even acknowledge the unique issues present in GLBTQIA community. Drag culture is not an art form like knitting. Knitting doesn't risk putting an individual on the fringes of society. Drag is a form of creative expression chosen by people trying to be their authentic selves in the few safe spaces available to them. For many people involved in this community, it's not a game or something to be appropriated by some hipster in a feather boa and hot pink heels. For the collective to not even approach the subject of inequality, violence and discrimination throughout such a project, when they write their grants on the premise that they actively engage in cultural dialogues meant to spark change, seems unfair. Especially when there are committed arts organizations boldly confronting real issues while competing for (and losing) the same financial support.

I honestly believe that art has the power to change lives. It changed mine. It opened up a world of possibilities that I never knew existed at a time when I was at my most vulnerable. I believe that creativity, in all its forms, can change the world and I have seen it in action. I also believe that artists have the ability to define their work in any number of ways and their practice is by no means required to have a 'message'. Art is certainly allowed to be fun and self-indulgent, a lot of the work I love is the embodiment of this type of approach. But you don't get to say you are involved in social change and cultural bridge building when in reality all you're doing is getting your problematic white friends together to fiddle with your cars and play dress up.

You can't be both self-indulgence, self-promoting while existing in a world where no one ever tells you you're wrong and say you're an activist, advocate and warrior. It doesn't work and if anything, it makes it harder for everyone else involved in real arts based cultural work to be taken seriously.

So how do arts organizations, artists, and creative practitioners interested in cultivating lasting change get the platform and funding they need to do real work? How do we take to task organizations which do the opposite of what they preach, especially if they are well funded and propped up by archaic views of innovation? How do we weed out self-indulgence in the social practice art world to make room for those with the vision and the empathetic capacity to positively impact their community, whether local, national or international?

How do we make this work actually matter?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cinematography Stills: Winter's Bone


Today I am bringing you the photographic work of Michael McDonough the cinematographer responsible for the beautiful film, Winter's Bone.

Winter's Bone is such a beautiful expression of a slice of American culture that is hidden behind the veil. For those who have any awareness of this country outside of what is presented on television, know that the landscape of this film is strangely familiar, if on the peripheral of our everyday life.

I know people living in abject poverty. I know children who are charged with responsibilities far beyond their years. I know people addicted to meth. I know people who live a lifestyle far outside the regulations of common law. There are parts of the United States, places like the where I live, that seem operate in accordance with their own codes of conduct.

That is what I love about Winter's Bone. I am uninspired by the idyllic portrait of America we're constantly fed. I am uninterested in a country that is portrayed as the land of opportunity, or a place with white picket fences and apple pie in the window. Those of us who live in 'real' America know that our opportunities are limited even if we do work hard. And that is why we love Winter's Bone. It's because we know people like Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) and it is a portrait of the US that is far closer to our everyday realities than what we see on TV.

Winters Bone (2010)

Directed by: Debra Granik

Cinematography: Michael McDonough 


Watch this clip! It is hands down one of the best scenes from the entire film.

Winter's Bone is a very character driven film and so we see lots of theses close ups of the main players. That is what I particularly love about this film. There is a shallow depth of field throughout the film which really emphasizes the unease we feel throughout. Beautiful work. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Joe Dempsie: You're Welcome

At first I'm like, "He's ok.  Joe Dempsie is cute, nice eyes, goofy. I'm into that. Plus, Chris from Skins UK is an awesome character and I kind of want him to be my best friend."

Now fast-forward.

Who is that? No! That's not Joe Dempsie is it?


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Hollywood Titan

Philip Seymour Hoffman

You've heard the news. If you're a fan, you're probably having a hard time imagining Hollywood without one of its all time greats. Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of those actors who gave legitimacy to the craft and to America's film business as a whole. With a massive range, and an active avoidance of all things celebrity, he was a man who commanded respect and honor and elevated all those around him.

But, I am a firm believer that when a man's time comes, it is better to celebrate their life than it is to mourn their death. Hoffman is a person who, in his short 46 years, has accomplished so many things worth celebrating. Many of his films rank in my top films of all time. Below is a list of my favorite moments from Philip Seymour Hoffman's career. Please add your own in the comments section below.

1) Almost Famous

2) Boogie Nights
"I'm an idiot" 

3) The Big Lebowski
"Little Lebowski Urban Achievers"

4) Doubt
"Is gossiping a sin?" 

5) Capote
"I did everything I could."

6) Along Came Polly
"I'm your daddy."

7) Charlie Wilson's War
"Water goes over a dam and under a bridge..."

Rest in peace. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cinematography Stills: Where the Wild Things Are

I have a new project for the blog ya'll!

I am going to start posting some of my favorite stills from my favorite films as a way to bring attention to the wonderful work of my favorite cinematographers. I think this will be a nice break from the giant blocks of text you see all over my blog and will allow us lovers of film to just soak in the beauty of great imagery. Comment below!

Where the Wild Things Are
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Cinematographer: Lance Acord

Max is lonely. He wishes he could sail away. 

Max fights against the waves.

Max hides in the woods as monsters reveal themselves in the shadow of the fire.


Let's watch the sunrise. 

Max lies in a field of orange flowers. 

Max wants to go home. 


I couldn't find a clip of my favorite scene (which is actually the scene in the still of this video). But check out the trailer. I swear. This film makes me cry like a baby every time I see it!

 Because it's cute. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

American Hustle: A Solid Piece of Cinema

Hello! I have a new review for you today. This time, it's David O. Russell's American Hustle. For those of you who follow this blog with any regularity you'll know that the real reason I saw this film was because of Jennifer Lawrence's supporting role. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the film was an incredible platform for all of the actors in this star-studded cast. 

American Hustle feels like cinema. It is not big explosions or body counts larger than a small midwest town. In fact, it's mostly talking, a lot of talking. While Lawrence was the big draw for me, I was also attracted to Russell's second big screen hit in the past two years and I had to see how using essentially the same cast of characters in a new film would play out. Silver Linings Playbook was a genuinely well crafted film that enjoyed quite a bit of success and I was eager to see what Russell was going to come up with next.

It should be said that I love films from the 1970's. Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, and films like Klute, Chinatown and A Woman Under the Influence, are all such incredible expressions of an under appreciated era in American film culture. The 70's are distinct far beyond disco, the dark, gritty crime dramas influenced heavily by the Vietnam war, Civil Rights, Watergate and the Kennedy Assassination are like the Iron Age in American cinema. The gloss of Hollywood had fallen out of favor with audiences that were neck deep in the realness of the world. 

Fast-forward 40 years and it's a challenge for contemporary filmmakers to capture such an enigmatic time in society with any sense of authenticity. There is not only a particular look that needs to be replicated with the environment but there is also a unique attitude in the way people talked, walked and carried themselves. In some respects, American Hustle did a pretty good job capturing the feel of the the time, much of that came from Amy Adams in the role of con-artist Sydney Prosser.

Amy Adams has always been a non-entity on my radar. She has done some very reputable films and has always had a favorable view in the general populous. However, she never has made much of an impression on me. Until now. I was absolutely mesmerized by her performance, she was glowing. And it has nothing to do with her beauty, but her complete dedication to her role. She walked the walk, and talked the talk and when she put her hair in tight, slightly frizzy curls, she looked as if she walked out of a time machine straight out of 1978.

There is a great scene where Sydney and Irving (Christian Bale) have an argument in their hotel room. Sydney has decided that their relationship isn't working and she wants to break it off. She is crushed that despite the love they have for each other, he still feels obligated towards his wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and their son. The break up is complicated because Sydney and Irving are intertwined in a federal bribery/fraud investigation and working as informants to avoid jail time. Sydney tells Irving that despite him breaking her heart, she is going to play her role perfectly (that of a wealthy British investor) and she is going to do everything she can to remind him of what he is losing as well as keep both of them out of jail.

During this conversation her hair is looks like a ginger Marcia Brady and she wears a long silk night gown like Faye Dunaway in Eyes of Laura Mars. The way she moves, her expressions, everything about Adams is great, she embodies the era with the cadence of her voice, and every gesture that she makes. Though it must be stated that with Adam's triumph, there was equal failure. 

I really liked this star studded cast. I think there was a truly great chemistry between the characters and the actors who played them. Though I am teetering of whether or not Bradley Cooper was the right choice for the role of the police investigator, Richie DiMasio. He seemed less dedicated to the authenticity of the role and seemed to get a little caught up in the theatrics. The 70's cop is an easy role to parody and very difficult to get right. His character was meant to supply some of the films comedy but in the end it was a bit of a lost opportunity.

Christian Bale surprised me in this film, and it's not because his performance wasn't satisfactory. In fact, the role of Irving Rosenfeld is somewhat outside of what we have come to expect from the Dark Knight himself. Bale has always been known to take on roles that are larger than life, but this did not keep with that trend, which isn't a bad thing. Irving is what I consider to be a meek character. He is caught between his love for Sydney and his obligation towards Rosalyn, he is a lousy, mid-grade con-artist and willing to sell out his friends to save his own skin. I found that this was a really interesting character for Bale and it was not, at all, what I was expecting.

The supporting cast in this film is pretty outstanding as well. Jennifer Lawrence really captured Irving's wife Rosalyn perfectly, and Rosalyn is a real piece of work. She is a fast talking, chain smoking wino whose level of irresponsibility and smart-assery are off the charts, she also supplies almost all of the comedy in the film. What I loved about her character was her compulsive need to be right, and to be validated in her rightness at all costs. She takes credit for things she had nothing to do with, and while it's played for laughs, one can see that she does it as a way to protect herself in a world and in a relationship where she feels vulnerable.


My favorite scene in the film is when Irving, Dimasio, Sydney and Rosalyn all attend a fancy cocktail party that is crucial to Sydney's and Irving's con to entrap the people's politician Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) in a bribe. Sydney is upset upon seeing Irving and the stunningly gorgeous Rosalyn together, but that doesn't even come close to the incensed look on Roslyn's face upon seeing Sydney staring her down. Rosalyn creates a scene and announces to everyone that Sydney is her husbands 'whore.' She fumes as men buy her drinks to calm her down.

Moments later, Sydney meets Rosalyn in the bathroom and starts telling her that she should leave Irving because she doesn't love him and knows he is sleeping around. Rosalyn launches into the most beautiful monologue in which she tells Sydney that, "sometimes in life all you have is a set of fucked up choices," then she laughs maniacally, kisses Sydney and walks out. It was hands down, the most perfectly executed scene in the entire film. Adams and Lawrence together are electric, and it has nothing to do with the kiss. They play off each other so well that I wish the film had been entirely about the two of them.

The biggest piece of criticism I have for this film is the cinematography. I was so, wildly disappointed. I felt like there was a pretty massive opportunity to do something truly gritty and 70's. They should have used some grainy film stock or bumped up the oranges, browns and grain in post. The film was far, far, far too glossy for my liking and it reminded me with every frame, that this was just an interpretation of the 70's, it didn't actually immerse me in the era. The film had its fleeting moments of cinematic beauty, but it still felt too contemporary. However, the overall production design was pretty flawless, though I think it would have been better served if the cinematography had been held up to a higher standard.

Overall, there is a lot to love about this film. It is not my favorite of the year, but it is worth seeing. They are pitching this film as a comedy but I didn't find it particularly comedic. I think a drama punctuated with some funny situations is a far better characterization. The biggest strength of this film is clearly the cast. The story is ok, I was interested in it, but it's not remarkable in any sense. I think the average person will thoroughly enjoy American Hustle. It's a solid, well executed film.

B : The film gets a solid B thanks to flawless performances by Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence and an interesting performance from Christian Bale. The film is fun, if a little heavy on the dialogue. The cinematography was disappointing for me, but it was slightly softened by great production design, interesting costumes.

Have you seen American Hustle? What did you think? Comment below! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

From the Archives: A profile on Jean-Pierre Jeunet


Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a modern French film director best known for Amelie, City of Lost Children, and Delicatessen. He has a very distinct style characterized by heavy attention to detail along with whimsically dark cinematic landscapes. He achieves his signature look by not only having a unique vision but by working closely with his hand selected production team. 

In a review of Amelie, one critic wrote, "It takes an extraordinarily talented director to navigate the lines between dark comedy, parody, whimsy and camp without getting bogged down by his own self-conscious artfulness." I think this is a perfect description of the duality of Jeunet’s work. At one moment his films seem light-hearted, funny and childlike, but they also have dark and often disturbing themes. Jeunet is a complicated individual who bases much of his work on past and personal experiences growing up in post war France, which is why his films connect so well with young and young at heart audiences. He is able to translate what we all see in the world and express it on film in a way that is both familiar and startling. 

Jeunet grew up in eastern France and by the age of 17 he was making short super 8 films, while also working at a telephone company. Jeunet was born 1953 and was very young when the French New Wave was at its height. Therefore he has no particular attachment to the style and said, “forget the French New Wave! It was 50 years ago. In the end we are going to lose and forget the New Wave. Because now we have a new generation of directors, and we try to make movies for the audience, not only for ourselves like the New Wave. I don’t like New Wave. Sorry. Maybe Truffaut, and that’s it.” 

Jeunet has spent his career making films that are the polar opposite of influential French directors such as Truffaut and Godard. Whereas these classic directors, widely regarded as two of the greatest filmmakers of all time, focused on the stark reality of things, Jeunet has rejected not necessarily their stories, but rather their style. All three filmmakers, Godard, Truffaut and Jeunet share many uniquely French characteristics such as the emphasis on personal relationships and the role of women in culture and society. 

Jeunet is a one of the most interesting directors working today because he makes films that are commercially successful while incorporating atypical themes regarding social interactions and cultural anxieties. However, not everyone sees Jeunet in the same light. While it would be tough to argue that Jeunet isn't a visionary auteur, his work is often very misunderstood. His surrealist, post-modern style and commercial success is often viewed as Americanized, and France more than almost any other country has had a rich, distinct cinematic history that has prided itself on its uniqueness. Jeunet has bucked some of those traditions which has made him a target for criticism. 

In my opinion, Jeunet has bridged the ocean and has made films that are far reaching across culture. The film City of Lost Children released in 1995 is a great example of Jeunet's ability to create widely accessible films. The film stars Ron Perlman as a street circus performer, Judith Vittet as Miette a young headstrong orphan and Daniel Emilfork as the mad scientist who steals children's dreams. The film explores the relationship humans have with machines, as well as themes surrounding the exploitation and disenfranchisement of children. Yet, the film is not all doom and gloom, in the end it has a very positive message about friendship and the strength of those who who are small. 

The story surround Miette as she works for a street peddler stealing and begging on the streets with a dozen other children. After her little brother, Denree is kidnapped by Krank (Emilfork) the scientist, Miette teams up with One (Pearlman) to try and rescue him. The setting of this film, a shipping yard on the edge of a dark ocean, is perhaps the most interesting of all Jeunet's work. Out in the ocean is Krank's lab where Dunree, an infant, is found attached to a machine that siphons his dreams. It is one of the most intricate, and visually stunning landscapes in all of modern cinema. 

"I like directors with a strong style where you recognize the style after 10 seconds. When you see a film from Tim Burton, you recognize immediately that it’s Tim Burton. It’s the same thing with Terry Gilliam. A long time ago, it was Fellini. I don’t want to compare myself with these great directors. I love to shoot with a short lens and use warm colors. I love to do that." -Jeunet 

Jeunet works in very tightly controlled environments, which is most evident in City of Lost Children. The film uses a large variety of custom made props and set pieces along with an ever-present atmospheric fog that obscures the horizon. Many of the scenes take place inside tightly cluttered spaces. All of these choices combined with the lack of color, sepia tone, and low-key lighting create the incredibly detailed world that is 100% Jeunet.  He never leaves anything to chance which includes his production team who helps him bring his vision to life. 

The most notable of Jeunet's frequent collaborators is Marc Caro, who has been involved in one way or another on many of Jeunet's most influential feature length films including City of Lost Children and Delicatessen. Typically filling the role of either co-director, writer or storyboard artist, Caro was heavily influenced by design and comic books and has had a huge influence on Jeunet’s style.

Jeunet is known for working with the same individuals on multiple films. Audrey Tautou, known mainly for her amazing performance in Amelie, also appeared three years later in his 2004 film, A Very Long Engagement. Dominique Pinon, who plays the identical sons of Krank in City of Lost Children, has appeared in all of Jeunet’s films. Darius Khondji was the cinematographer on Delicatessen, City of Lost Children and Jeunet’s Hollywood picture Alien Resurrection. He is also well known for the wildly popular film, Se7en. If one watches Jeunet's most popular films you will notice that many of the same people were involved in creating each of his box office hits. 

Jeunet really stands tall among French filmmakers because of his signature style that transcends borders but he stands in great company. Christopher Gans 2001 film Brotherhood of the Wolf did very well in France and even enjoyed great commercial success here in the U.S becoming the second highest grossing French language film in the United States in over 20 years. Claude Sautet directed what many consider to be a modern French masterpiece, A Heart in Winter, which, despite its critical acclaim, did not fare so well at the box office.  Other notable French directors working today include Mathieu Kassovitz, known for his 1995 film Hatet, and one of my favorites, Luc Besson best known for directing cult classic The Fifth Element

Many French filmmakers have found success working on Hollywood action pictures. Kassovitz also directed the 2008 sci-fi action picture Babylon A.D, and he is not alone. Louis Leterrier is another French director who directed Hollywood action pictures including Transporter 2 (2005) and The Incredible Hulk (2008). Even Jeunet directed a Hollywood picture in the studios of Los Angeles, but what sets him apart from all other contemporary French directors is that Jeunet has a voice and a vision that can never be mistaken whether he is working on his own script or a script for a big budget movie. 

Despite America’s lack of interest in foreign films, Jeunet has managed to bring attention to modern French cinema with Amelie and City of Lost Children becoming a favorite for art houses, film buffs and even finding an audience among average Americans.  He is the dominant director of his generation and stands in stark contrast to many of the French directors that came before him and far outshines his contemporaries.  Jeunet’s films include, Delicatessen (1991), The City of Lost Children (1995), Alien Resurrection (1997), Amelie (2001), A Very Long Engagement (2004) and Micmacs (2009). 

Have you seen any of Jeunet's work? What do you think of him? Which of his films is your favorite?