Foutaises (Things I like, Things I Hate)
Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France, 1989, 6:53min.
For those of you, who like me, can’t stand yet another rendition of “My Favorite Things” and are already dreading the holiday season because you know soon you’ll be unwillingly humming the song here is Jeunet’s first version of “Things I like, Things I Hate” which doesn’t have the same sugar coated, Splenda excess of the Sound of Music lyrics. I’ll just say that Maria would never sing about peeing in the shower.
The plot is simple, a list of likes and hates; but the opening credits are what set forth the list. They are presented by replacing the prices in a butcher’s window with the titles and names for the production crew. They fade to black and we hear a man (Dominique Pinon) say “I hate butcher’s shop windows!” from there he goes on to list things that to us are insignificancies.
Usually, I try not to pay much attention to how film titles and their dialogue has been translated into English. But, I find it necessary to get into semantics with Foutaises, just because I believe it adds to the film itself. The English title of the short “Things I like, Things I Hate” is just fine; it literally tells us what the film is. But Foutaises can also be translated as rubbish or if you feel like doing the whole French-to-Spanish-to-English you arrive at insignificancies. To me, knowing that the film is about insignificancies adds to the film’s subtext. How else would you classify the fact that Pinon enjoys the words like “trans-europ-express, trans-orient-express, trans-siberian-express,” or how he hates leaving one lonely pea on his plate. They are really insignificant to us, even to him, but pointing them out gives them significance. It helps us come to terms with our own capricious likes and dislikes.
What helps in liking Pinon’s list is the slightly sarcastic tone that Jeunet inscribed to the film that and the thousand ways Pinon can contort his face (you might also remember his face from some film about some Amélie girl). Pinon has a grumpy guy type face which makes him seem sarcastic at time. But it is Jeunet’s visual style that adds those layers of sarcasm that make you chuckle and agree to yourself with some of the things in the film. The best example is when he says he likes the innocence of kids, just to reveal a girl bouncing a ball in wall with the graffiti of a penis but is not until later when Pinon admits to liking street graffiti. The film is also very graphic in very literal way, Jeunet makes a great use of illustration but he also shows literal actions. The literal actions and the editing makes the audience react and almost feel the pain, especially, when he pluck his nose hair on camera.
Jeunet likes fantastic cinema and Foutaises is the first film where he started to play with it. He later used the same technique of close-ups and things your like to introduce the characters in Amélie. But Jeunet’s choice to mix film with animation, illustration, newsreel, and the piano soundtrack add up to an almost palpable experience. I would aregue that his list of the likes and hates feel far more real than “My favorite things”. This is partly because Pinon’s narration is filled with pauses and it feels more like things he thought of over time and were edited later. Jeunet made an excellent mix of the fantastic and the realistic, with just enough not so insignificant lines to leaving thinking about what you watched and makes this quirky little short actually significant.
“I hate to think we sleep a third of our life, but I like to think that after death can't be worse than before birth."