(2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
(Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain)
“I like to look for things no one else catches”
They say that it’s best to appreciate the smaller things in life. Instead of focusing on the direction your career’s heading in, or why you haven’t met the love of your life yet, you should instead focus on looking at the little details around you. The little details that can often give you little bursts of happiness that make up for any disappointments you may feel with the “bigger” things.
It’s a philosophy that probably not everyone buys into, but Amélie certainly does. The opening narration and montage describes a bluebottle landing on a road and a light breeze moving a tablecloth before it gets to the much more major event of the title character’s birth, and this focus on the details sets the tone of the rest of the movie.
Amélie is a dreamer, a young woman who takes pleasure in skipping stones and watching people’s faces in dark cinemas. Following the death of Princess Diana in 1997, she discovers an old “treasure box” hidden in the wall of her apartment, and seeks out its original owner, now 40 years older. The good feeling this gives her leads her to attempt more good deeds for others. However, at the same time she realises that in addition to helping others, she needs to try and sort out her own life too, and this includes possibly seeking out romance with an aparent kindred spirit she’s bumped into during her daily life.
Amélie is a quirky, feel-good movie. It’s hard not to enjoy the title character’s zest for life, and Audrey Tautou’s performance is perfect. Her cheeky side glances and grins are enough to show how perfect Tautou is for the role. In addition, the plot in general, with its focus on the lives of so many quirky and genuinely interesting characters, is guaranteed to raise a smile. Every character’s story has been lovingly crafted, and frequently you’ll find yourself wishing to live in this world.
The visual style just adds to this. It feels almost dreamlike at times, set in an almost romanticised version of Paris. It’s almost like we’re viewing everything through Amélie’s rose-tinted glasses, and we see for ourselves how her imagination shapes the world. And yet, somehow it stays grounded in reality. The movie manages to successfully avoid crashing into full blown fantasy territory, and at its heart remains a film about humanity.
Naturally, it could be seen that a movie that tries so hard to be “feel-good” could easily become mawkish or over-sentimental. But Amélie doesn’t. There’s a quirky honesty about everything the movie puts forward. It keeps things simple, never attempts to goad us into feeling good, and maintains a cheeky sense of humour that draws the viewer in. It’s a wonderful balance.
Of course, the film is unlikely to win over anyone unwilling or unable to read subtitles or understand French, but this shouldn’t be a deterrent. Amélie is a beautiful movie about the simpler things in life, and a movie about love, and it’s hard not to smile at its charms.
Starring Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Lorella Cravotta, Serge Merlin & Jamel Debbouze
Written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Guillaume Laurant
Produced by Claude Ossard
Music by Yann Tiersen
Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel
Edited by Jeffrey Schneid
Favourite Scene: A key romantic scene towards the end of the movie. It’s slow, it’s tender, and it’s a perfect summary of the relationship between the two characters. Genuinely heart-warming.
Scene That Bugged Me: Honestly, nothing bugs me about Amélie. I tried to think of something, I really did, but I failed
Watch it if: Your favourite hobby is skipping stones across ponds.
Avoid it if: You like belittling your only employee in front of customers. This movie doesn’t treat people like you very well.
Originally posted on Blogspot Monday 31 October 2011