My dear francophiles, francovorous and francophageous friends, let me tell you a funny (or kind of funny) story. It’s the story of one of the most famous French movie directors, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The year is 1997. At this time, Jean-Pierre and his co-director Marc Caro had just given the world some of the most promising, fresh and interesting movies of their times. From their French short films (Le Bunker De La Dernière Rafale, Pas de Repos Pour Billy Brako) to their features (Delicatessen, City Of The Lost Children), they were bringing something really new to cinema. And not just French cinema, worldwide cinema. No wonder Hollywood called them...
Marc Caro wasn’t interested in an American adventure, but Jeunet was. The two friends parted ways. Caro kept his work in a more artistic and intimate expression of his art. Jeunet tried out the exact opposite: a blockbuster.
This was the new Alien. The franchise has always been tilting towards authors, innovative directors, and bold artists, starting with its creator Ridley Scott. Then came James Cameron, David Fincher, and for the 4th installment Fox studios decided to take another bet with Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Jeunet, on his side, wanted to see if he would be able to put some of his very distinctive personality on such a big machine. And also, to be honest, see how it was to have a worldwide success. The fourth installment of the Alien franchise could only be a success. Sigourney Weaver was back, they added the young star Winona Ryder. Jeunet had his own crew coming from Paris, including his 2nd unit director and close friend Pitof, and the legendary director of photography Darius Khondji.
But of course, it didn’t really go as planned. Does it ever? It wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t the experience anyone expected. The pressure from the studio was enormous, the shoot was often too much to handle. One of the actresses wasn’t (how to say this nicely) as good as expected (I’m not telling you which one). And the box office was alright--not good, not bad--just alright. Probably not what Jean-Pierre Jeunet expected. It was an exhausting experience for him. And it didn’t meet expectations. This would not be the triumph he was expecting.
After the release of his Alien Resurrection, Jeunet decided to go back home and shoot a small movie in his neighborhood with his friends and young actors. The idea was to have fun and rekindle his flame and his passion for filmmaking. It would not make a dime. It was not a Hollywood movie, more like a Montmartre picture, and that wasn’t the point at all. After all, this was kind of the anti-Alien…
The funny part of the story is that this movie was, of course, Amélie. The 2nd biggest success of French cinema abroad, just after Intouchables.
I find it kind of ironic that a small very French movie would bring more fame, more respect, and more fortune also, to its director than a huge Hollywood movie.
Maybe the proof that language doesn’t matter for the success of the film and that the warmth and heart of a film transcends any borders.
In our new episode of Rendez-Vous d’Amérique, we follow Jeunet at a reunion screening of Alien Resurrection at USC. 22 years after the making of his film, he forgot the bad and kept the good of his Hollywood experience. He looks at it with affection and a bit of nostalgia. But he still has a spark in his eye when he quotes the success of Amélie…
To learn more about the work of Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, his connection to the Alien Franchise, and other happenings that define Francophone culture in America, read our blog, and tune in to our episodes of Rendez-vous d’Amérique on TV5MONDE USA. Click here for more information.
Exploring a diversity of culture entwined with Hollywood’s cinematic passion, Seattle’s muscial energy, Boston’s intellectual curiosity, and beyond - Rendez-vous d'Amérique invites you on a journey to discover Francophone culture in America. Your host on this cultural experience is Didier Allouch - reporter, cinephile, and a familiar face at movie premieres. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to TV5MONDE USA and never miss an episode!