Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Filmmaking, Visualizing the American West

Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the American University of Paris

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the famed director of ‘Amélie,’ ‘Delicatessen,’ and ‘Alien Ressurection’ among many others held a Q&A with students at the American University of Paris who were eager to discuss his latest film ‘The Young and Prodigious Spivet‘ and to learn what makes the veteran film director tick.

Most of the film – the story of a genius 12-year-old boy who leaves his family home in Montana on a freight train to receive an award from the Smithsonian Institute – takes place in the American West, a dream landscape for a director like Jeunet. As he did for Amélie, Jeunet once again managed to bring together an attention to and fascination with details, a sort of playful regard on a dreamed-up past, and the most cutting edge technology – this time bringing the world of his main character to life in 3D. With a love for grand landscapes and a love hate relationship with the film industry in the United States,  Jeunet described the process of shooting ‘The Young and Prodigious Spivet,’ a European-Canadian co-production, as one of his most involved and difficult, but rewarding. It is apparent even in the trailer that every step from adapting the book for the screen and casting to the final cut was approached with the passion of the obsessed but also with the creativity of the young at heart. (Scroll down for the full length talk)

The film, like many that take place in the American west, was filmed almost entirely in Canada because of favorable filming conditions and freedom from Hollywood studios. In and of itself, this bit of information isn’t very surprising or interesting. What is interesting to think about, however, after hearing Jeunet talk about his new film and as I’ve started to see nostalgic imagery of the American west gain traction in popular culture and fashion in Europe – is how while Hollywood spends most of its time looking out into dystopic futures, the surreal, or outer space, European musicians, designers and film directors at work re-imagining American landscapes in imaginative and whimsical ways (even if this may seem camp to some American viewers). It seems as if they are practicing some sort of imaginary memory – a ‘what it may have been like’ or ‘what I’ve always dreamed about it’ to accompany their experiences of contemporary urban American places. However, where Jeunet’s work stands out is in his ability to create films that wear imagination on their sleeves and dream bigger than big. TS Spivet may not have seen much success in the box office, but it is definitely worth a look.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the American University of Paris

Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the American University of Paris

photos by: Dayna Foudy

2 thoughts on “Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Filmmaking, Visualizing the American West

  1. Pingback: Worth the Wait: JR Inside Out | Prêt à Voyager

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