Foutaises (Things I Like, Things I Hate) is one of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s (director of Amélie) earliest efforts. It uses a technique that will be familiar to viewers of Amélie, narrating and illustrating the likes and dislikes of the main character. Unlike Amélie, where a voice over narrates a similar sequence, in Foutaises, the unnamed main character speaks to the camera/audience directly. Foutaises also makes the corresponding scene in Amélie look stripped down; this film uses a great deal of montage editing, absurd visual metaphors, and references to other films. The primary quality of the short is its comedic quirkiness, its ability to never take itself seriously. It makes use of the most basic comedic techniques in film, such as crosscutting between two events that are about to connect in some way, and close-up reaction shots of the main character’s face. These techniques, combined with its gritty, black and white texture, make it reminiscent of 1910s comedic shorts, with its sometimes slapstick, and always unflinching, humor. The humor is not in the action alone, but permeates the whole substance of the film. The things the man enjoys are for the most part very quirky and random (such as eating egg yolks whole and illustrated catastrophes in old dictionaries), but when he tries to be grand and mention “the innocence of children” as something he likes, a girl is shown playing next to some mildly obscene graffiti, ridiculing his pretentious and vague statement. He also mentions enjoying situations “so amazing that you wouldn’t even dare put it in a movie,” which of course Jeunet immediately does.
Foutaises has much of the same whimsical quirkiness that characterizes Amélie, but in a much more aggressive form. The close-ups of the main character are disconcertingly intrusive upon the audience’s attention. His face often fills up the whole screen and we see ever little expressive twitch of reaction. This is one of the ways Foutaises seems to make fun of film in general. Traditionally, we are used to seeing lyrical, soft-focus close-ups of beautiful faces in various delicate expressions. In Foutaises, we see unflinching close-ups of a face that looks ordinary and whose expressions of pleasure or distaste are unrestrained. Foutaises also continually incorporates and references other films. Besides the scene so fabulous “you wouldn’t even dare put it in a movie,” there are several clips used from various movies where the characters talk about things they like or dislike. We do not know if the main character is identifying with the films he sees or if this is just another example of things people like. The movie concludes with the man saying “when I go to the cinema to see an old film, I like the arrival of the words…” and “THE END” is shown on the screen. Foutaises is thus merged with the other films, so that not only are other films part of it, Foutaises itself becomes incorporated into the other films. With this amused and perhaps even cynical attitude towards both film and life, it is unclear whether or not Jeunet really believes that the small likes and dislikes, the personal quirks he presents, are important, but he certainly finds them more interesting than broad, vague statements. The lighthearted nature of the film and the focus on the minute personal details seems to beg the question, what is truly important? Is our personality vested in our belief in such generalities as “the innocence of children” or is it in the way we act and what we like? The general, blase convictions are meaningless, while the little things capture our attention. They may not be important, but they are interesting.
— Anna Shane