Friday, June 25, 2010
A man enumerates his likes and dislikes.
Yup, that’s it folks. That’s your synopsis. Right there. ‘Foutaises’ consists of Dominique Pinon breaking the fourth wall as he guides the audience through a cross section of the things he likes (random examples: pulling up his socks, pissing in the shower, turning on the radio to hear the very song he wanted) and the things he doesn’t (being woken up by his dog’s cold nose, dead Christmas trees dumped on the streets in January). It’s a simple, almost twee subject for a film, one that could have added up to a whole lot of nothing. That, or been cloyingly sentimental.
But in Jeunet’s hands, it’s a gem. A seven minute ode to idiosyncracy. It’s also a virtual blueprint for the sequences in ‘Amelie’ which celebrate the characters’ idiosyncracies. Amelie’s father taking an OCD level of satisfaction in empty his toolbox, cleaning it out and neatly replacing everything? Amelie herself skimming stones or picking up on details in old movies that everyone else misses or despairing of characters in movies who take their eyes off the road while driving? Here’s where those scenes were perfected. Remember the scene where Amelie worries that her paramour has been abducted by bandits, her feverish imaginings played out to an absurdly brilliant stock-footage montage? ‘Foutaises’ employs a similar technique to demonstrate Pinon’s antagony towards the things he dislikes.
If ‘Amelie’ is Jeunet’s most self-conscious movie (and by that, I’m using the Quentin Tarantino definition of a movie movie), then ‘Foutaises’ is again its aesthetic forebear. Every frame reminders you you’re watching a film. The beautifully effected payoff to Pinon’s list of good things and bad things ends with the cinema as most definitely one of the good things … except that Jeunet ends with his protagonist’s curiously poignant observation (confession?) that every trip to the movies is freighted with the anticipation of the words “THE END”.
If the end of ‘Foutaises’ is a fantasia for cinema itself (and its mise-en-scene a practice run, a decade in advance, for some of the most memorable moments in ‘Amelie’), then it kicks off in a manner that presupposes Jeunet’s very next film. The opening credits take the form of price tags pinned amidst the offerings on meat trays in a butcher’s window (Pinon’s first line is a disgusted “bleeeeuuurrrggghhh”, preceding an assertion that he hates butchers’ windows). The camera swings from tray to tray and credit to credit. Only none of the trays, it quickly becomes apparent, hold the kind of products you’d expect. Eyeballs, chicken heads and hands arranged like hors d’ouevres cheerfully glide past our eyes. It’s macabre but amusing.
‘Delicatessen’, with its Machiavellian butcher, was Jeunet’s next film.