CAPSULE: FOUTAISES (1989)

AKA “Things I Like, Things I Don’t Like”; “Things I Like, Things I Hate”

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Dominique Pinon

PLOT: A man lists things he likes, and things he doesn’t like, for about seven minutes.

Still from Foutaises (1989)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s neither weird nor substantial enough, though its an eminently worthy essay in the short film format.

COMMENTS: There’s not too much to Foutaises, which is lighter and flakier than a croissant, but what is there is perfectly made. It starts as if we’re coming in in the middle of a conversation between Dominique Pinon (whose face here is at its youthful rubberiest) and an unseen interrogator; Pinon mentions that he hates butcher shops (grimacing so hard you fear he’s sprained his face in the process) but struggles to think of something he likes—until he recalls the pleasure of discovering sand from his last beach vacation trapped in the pages of a book. What follows are descriptions of common and not-so common experiences, some pleasant, some irritating, illustrated by Jeunet’s visual jokes and Pinon’s exaggerated reactions. It’s sweet that the character likes parks on holidays and Richard Widmark’s laughter, but it’s the things that annoy him that steal the show. Plucking nose hairs is an apocalyptic experience that causes buildings to collapse and Pinon’s head to shake like one of the demons in Jacob’s Ladder, but I most identify with his abhorrence of “the drop of water that splashes up.” In the course of the survey we meet a dog-drawn carriage and an animated pea, among other whimsical touches. The “foutaises” surveyed here may be trifles, but (despite the fact that one example is “something so amazing you wouldn’t dare put it in a movie”) they are the kinds of peculiarities that taken together describe the day-to-day realities of human existence more accurately than a montage of big moments would. That accessibility, its exploration of individual’s inexplicable preferences in eating and excretion and sex, is how the short snuggles up against your heart. “You like life?,” asks a character in a clip from a forgotten black and white classic Pinon sees at the cinema. “Some days I do,” is the reply that sums up Foutaises‘ fondly bemused attitude toward human existence.

This short, made one year before Delicatessen, shows Jeunet as a fully-formed, ready-for-prime-time director, confidently in control of his material. There are several trends here that will show up in future movies (not the least of which is the presence of Pinon, who is to Jeunet what  was to ). Jean-Claude Dreyfus and Marie-Laure Dougnac, who would play the butcher and his daughter in Delicatessen, show up here briefly as a husband and wife. The title sequence, with cast and crew names handwritten on cards that hover over butcher’s plates of eyeballs and chicken claws like price tags, prefigures the more elaborate antique object scrawl of the opening credits of the upcoming feature. Most significantly, Jeunet recycled the device of using lists of “things I like/things I don’t like” as a way to quickly introduce and individuate characters over a decade later for his blockbuster hit Amélie. Given Jeunet’s successful career and the fact that “Foutasises” won a César for “best short film,” the movie has been a bit scarce on video (although today even novice Googlers will have little problem locating a copy). It was released as a bonus on the English-language VHS of Delicatessen, then as an (unsubtitled) extra on the French edition of Amélie.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a short with a crystallized sense of style, a clear feeling of authorship, and whose chief virtue is its energy and off kilter point of view.”–Bryce Wilson, Things That Don’t Suck

(This movie was nominated for review by “Flamingo Pudding.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

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