Jean-Pierre Lelong has passed without a sound

In 1987, Michael Cimino was editing his film The Sicilian, and his American sound editors were having a hell of a time adding the sound of the trampling of panicked horses. Too much confusion, too much dust, too many hooves; impossible to properly synchronize the sound with the images.

So, without saying anything to the director, the French film editor, Françoise Bonnot, took the sequence to Paris, and showed it to Jean Pierre Lelong, the awesome sound effects engineer.

In two or three movements, Lelong, assisted by his faithful Mario, much as Terry Gilliam in The Quest for the Holy Grail maybe didn’t clap together coconuts , but took out a few unlikely instruments out of his surreal bags…

Cimino was so impressed that he gave all the film’s sound effects work to Jean-Pierre.

To get an idea of Lelong’s extraordinary work, take a look at this short clip from the making of A Very Long Engagement.

In the 60’s and 70’s there was no such thing as a “sound designer” equipped with computers. It was the sound effects engineer, in his studio, that did everything that hadn’t been captured on the spot, or which needed to be redone to be played over foreign language dialogues.

But where Jean-Pierre Lelong was a pure genius is that his work resembled a number from Cirque du Soleil. Indeed, not only did he recreate sounds and totally realistic noises with objects that have nothing to do with the sounds, but he had the unique distinction of directly syncing them perfectly.

He looked once or twice at the image, spotted the location of the sound to be made using the numbers running under the image, and he was off.

It was rare that he had to do anything twice. He crushed crates to smash a pontoon for The City of Lost Children, twisted the wheels of a salvaged supermarket trolley to make the swing squeak in Amelie, threw nuts and bolts on drumheads for the pills Ms. Interligator spat out in Delicatessen, and waltzed with a dancer’s step on the studio’s wooden floors, wearing his old rotten shoes, that even Charlie Chaplin would snub … to bring a subtlety, as if by magic, to lame Matilda running through the grass.

And all that perfectly synchronized to a 24th of a second!

It was quite a sight to see. But about noon, when hunger set in, it was not a stomach growling that you heard, but this colourful guy glaring at you and pronouncing “Stomach!”

Jean-Pierre worked on all my movies. The last few years were less happy, because technical advancements had made his genius of syncing a little obsolete. But he worked all his life for the masters. He even won an Oscar and worked on several James Bond films, always with the same sense of perfectionism.

His last film was TS Spivet and I’m proud to have stayed loyal to him.

Amelie on Broadway


The press has recently announced the very important information that Amelie will be produced as a Broadway musical (interviews on Europe 1, RTL, BFM…).

This is true. But why have I waited twelve years? Well, because I absolutely loathe “musicals” and so I have resisted all proposals for all these years, whether French or American. I cannot find a better definition of this genre than that of Gad Elmaleh’s comedy sketch… “We make love, we go to war… we make love… you’ve already said that!”… Jacques Demy’s films are, to me, the epitome of absolute delusion… Ah, and why not some figure skating in this supremely has-been genre? Maybe I’ll be presented with a choreography on ice between Amélie and Nino Quincampoix…

So, you ask, why did I finally give in? Very simply because I support an association called “Heart Surgery Sponsors”, whose goal is to bring children with heart defects here from poor countries. They are welcomed into families, and operated on in France before returning home, healed.

So after hearing that a “musical” could, if successful, earn a lot of money, I thought it was perhaps time to rethink my decision. If this show can save the lives of some children, so be it… “Amelie will change your life… you’ve already said that”… The worst thing that can happen after all is that the show is a flop!

News about TS

The Young and Prodigious Spivet is now being edited. Filmed in 3D, it will be in cinemas on the 23 of October! 

The filming took place in Quebec and Alberta. Rather than wax on about it, here are some images that will pay homage to my precious artistic collaborators and give you something to whet the appetite…


To live happy, live hidden!



A film is often a war, a battle. This photo shows it well.



Here you can see the two “Alexa M” cameras that we were the first to use to film in 3D. In the background, Julien Lecat, longtime author of this site, and for TS, author of the “making of” and of provisional work that takes place on site, a really valuable member of the team…



Christophe Vassort had already been my first assistant for “Amelie”.
He should charge for his good mood and humor (not always understood by the Canadians…). He speaks a special language, what I call ‘Vasoravian’, and speaks English with the worst accent on the planet, with phrases such as “Don’t take me for a noodle”!



Jean Umanski, my trusty sound engineer, fitting TS, otherwise known as Kyle Catlett. My Kylitto is a child prodigy. We haven’t seen the last of him!



Jean-Marc Deschamps, production supervisor for all of my films since Amelie has always boosted morale in the most difficult and complicated moments.



Aline Bonetto, my set designer, who has been with me for all of my films except Alien. A powerhouse of work and talent.



Reif Larsen, author of the book, visiting the set, and signing his book for Helena Bonham Carter.



To the left, in the foreground is Madeline Fontaine, my head costume designer since Amelie (she also worked with Jean Paul Gaultier for The City of Lost Children) and to the right, Anne Wermelinger, my script who has also been with me since The City.



Kyle Katlett, who is, incidentally, also the world champion of children’s martial arts…



… so he did most of the stunts…



Demetri Portelli is our stereographer. He also worked on Hugo Cabret, which had been, in my opinion, the best film shot in 3D…until TS Spivet…… (Ah ah…)



Callum Keith Rennie plays TS’s father, and has got a truly western “look”. He was in Battle Star Galactica, among other films.



Dany Racine started the film as first camera assistant and finished as cameraman. I can never thank him enough for his passion and his help. Seen here with his own invented view finder made with a Canon D5.



Helena Bonham Carter is already known to be an astonishing actress, but I have never found it so easy to get along with an actress. To the left, Nathalie Tissier, my head of make up, who’s also been with me for forever…



A natural pose… To my right, my head cameraman Thomas Hardmeier, whose work I have admired for a long time.



Sophie Chiabaut is Jean Umanski’s “perchwoman”. Another loyal member of the club. No, to the right, that isn’t a character in the film, just a docile stand in for TS…



The storyboard drawn by Maxime Rebière.



The ranch, built for the film in Alberta.



Judy Davis. I told her “make me laugh”. She did.



Dominique Pinon. Because a film of mine without Pinon, wouldn’t be a film of mine.

Photographs: © Yann Thijs

3 dernières pubs australiennes

La plupart des réalisateurs de pub (les vrais…) enchaînent les films les uns derrière les autres. La production fait le casting, les repérages de décors, les costumes etc., sans eux. Ils arrivent le matin du tournage et sont sur un autre film le lendemain même. Comme ce n’est pas ma façon de travailler (J’aime participer à tout…), je suis présent à chaque étape de la fabrication, y compris la postproduction. Donc que je suis au montage (ces films ont été montés par Hank Corwin, monteur entre autres pour Terrence Malick et Oliver Stone) et continue à superviser les effets spéciaux numériques. (Ceux-ci ont été faits par Animalogic, à Sydney, qui ont réalisé le long-métrage d’animation Le Royaume de Ga’Hoole).

Naturellement quand le réalisateur a fini son travail, c’est l’agence et le client qui s’emparent des films et en font ce qu’ils veulent. Pour cette série, je n’ai pas trop à me plaindre, les films sont très proches de mes montages. Sauf en ce qui concerne les musiques. Nous avions livré les films avec des musiques temporaires qui marchaient magnifiquement (Genre Gladiators sur le film avec le cricket), mais dont les droits étaient évidemment inaccessibles. C’est donc l’agence qui a fait ces choix musicaux… No comment.

Sinon la lumière, comme pour la série précédente, est signée Bruno Delbonnel. Pour l’anecdote, le “Tintin” qui remet la coupe au gamin est le Zidane du cricket…

Nouveau projet

L’extravagant voyage du jeune et prodigieux T.S. Spivet (en Anglais The selected works of T.S. Spivet) est un livre magnifique de Reif Larsen dont je suis en train d’acheter les droits. Plutôt que de mal en parler, je vous invite à visiter le site extraordinaire de ce livre extraordinaire :

J’ai rencontré Reif Larsen il y a deux semaines à New York et ai eu l’impression de découvrir un frère jumeau juste vingt-huit ans plus jeune que moi. Il m’a dit : “Quand j’ai vu Amélie, j’ai eu l’impression que quelqu’un avait gratté au fond de mon crâne”… Quant à moi, j’ai été conquis dès la sixième ligne du livre :

Le téléphone a sonné un après-midi du mois d’août, alors que ma sœur Gracie et moi étions sur la véranda en train d’éplucher le maïs doux dont les grands seaux en fer-blanc. Les seaux étaient criblés de petites marques de cros qui dataient du printemps dernier, quand Merveilleux, notre chien de ranch, avait fait une dépression et s’était dit à manger du métal.

Ce film-là, si l’aventure va jusqu’au bout, sera un film tourné aux USA, avec des acteurs américains.
Ci-dessus couverture du livre et photo de Reif Larsen.

Blanche Neige pas très net

Une information court sur le net comme quoi je vais réaliser un remake de Blanche Neige avec Nathalie Portman. Cela donne une idée de la crédibilité de ce qu’on peut lire sur la toile… Il suffit qu’un site nase écrive une connerie pour qu’elle soit aussitôt reprise par d’autres. J’ai effectivement reçu de mon agent américain une proposition concernant ce projet, que j’ai refusé pour des raisons très simples :

  • Je n’ai pas besoin d’un producteur américain pour penser à Blanche Neige.
  • Je pense que si j’écrivais le script avec Guillaume Laurant, on pourrait faire un peu mieux…
  • Et si un jour je décide d’écrire l’adaptation d’un conte célèbre, je le produirai moi-même pour garder la liberté.

Collection de scénarios de films

Les éditions LettMotif lancent une nouvelle collection de scénarios. Format 13×21, papier de qualité, couverture quadri pelliculée et dos carré, chaque tirage est limité. 
Les scénario de Delicatessen (Gilles Adrien, Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet), La Cité des enfants perdus (Gilles Adrien, Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet), Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (Guillaume Laurant et Jean-Pierre Jeunet), 110 en dessous de zéro (scénario inédit, Gilles Adrien, Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet) viennent de paraître. Cliquez ici pour les commander (ou découvrir les autres titres dont un ouvrage collectif sur John Cassavetes…)

Label Otero

Dans les bonus du DVD de Micmacs, un documentaire que j’ai produit sur Manuel Otero, réalisateur de dessins animés chez qui j’ai commencé à travailler en 1974… Réalisé par Phil Casoar, par ailleurs auteur des livres d’Amélie et du Long Dimanche, ce documentaire alterne interviews de ce réalisateur qui a gagné entre autres le grand prix au festival d’Annecy, avec des extraits de ses films et de ceux qu’il a produit, dont un certain Manège, dont je vous propose ci-dessous une conséquence cocasse…

Dans ce bonus, quatre courts-métrages d’Otero, sans doute les meilleurs, quatre petits bijoux intitulés Contrepied, Ares contre Atlas, La balade d’Emile et Univers.

Par ailleurs, le travail de Manuel Otero fera l’objet d’une exposition au château d’Annecy pendant la durée du festival.


Votre serviteur en 1975.



Au banc-titre avec le boss, Manuel Otero.



Aujourd’hui dans le documentaire.







La balade d’Emile.




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