Comedy / Drama / Films / World Cinema

Amélie

Every now and then, a film is released which manages to completely restore your faith in cinema. Such films revel in the craft and stand up proudly against the classics of old, with a shining, original confidence which brightens the day of cinematic critics around the globe. Jeunet’s Amélie (in French, Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain) is one such film; an assured, well made instant classic which manages to be charming without being nauseating, stylish without being pretentious – it’s a wonderful music box of a film, and one which is a bound to leave a smile on your face long after the credits roll.a1The film begins with a young Amélie (Flora Guiet), a shy, awkward girl, who due to an ironic misdiagnosis from her doctor dad, is forbidden from going to school and subsequently misses out on socialising with other children. Falling into her own private imagination land, the shy awkward girl grows up into a shy, awkward women (now played by Audrey Tautou), who works as a waitress for a small café in Montmartre. The plot however truly starts when Amélie finds a hidden toy in her bathroom and decides to return it to its now much older former owner, an incident which reignites Amélie’s life, and sends her on a quest to help those around her, all without them ever knowing of her influence. Like a magical imp, Amélie subtly twists the lives of everyone she knows, all in an attempt to make their worlds just a little bit brighter. But with Amélie helping everyone else, the audience wonder who exactly will help her. Making friends with the Glass Man (so named for his brittle bones, and played by Serge Merlin), an eccentric gentleman who constantly and continuously paints Renoir’s Luncheon of a Boating Party, Amélie begins to realise just how lonely she actually is. Subsequently she becomes drawn to Nino, another oddball who works for both a fun fair and a porn shop, and who strangely collects the disused portraits discarded beneath photo booths. Amélie and Nino are soul mates, of course, and the film turns into a quirky romance, with the two slowly circling one another, desperate to get together without ever being sure how to go about it. It’s a cinematic romance, but one slightly stranger than most.a4As a whole, the cast of Amélie are strong, but Tautou completely overshadows them all. This is really her movie, with Tautou standing as the sexy, charming centre which holds the whole thing together. She’s extremely likeable and there’s a slight silent movie element to the actress – with her cheeky smile and big, wide eyes, Tautou manages to do a lot with very little; Amélie doesn’t actually speak much dialogue, but Tautou brings the character to life through a series of winks, sighs and gestures. It’s a very cinematic performance, one reliant on physical talents and not screenwriters, and it’s very refreshing to see a film with such a confident leading lady. Tautou also manages to be quirky without coming across as a maniac, which is important too – a lesser actress could have played Amélie as a complete psycho, and its lucky that’s not the case here. Really though, Tautou is incredibly likable – we feel sad when she feels sad, happy when she smiles, and it’s hard not to fall in love with her. By the end of the movie the audience really feel like they know this girl, almost as if she’s an ex girlfriend from a summer long ago. The rest of the cast are admirable without ever really standing out, though credit must be given to Kassovitz as Nino, who manages to come across as charming but not creepy, which is pretty impressive when you break down his character with all its weird traits. You really buy him as Amélie’s counterpart, and long for the two to get together.a2If Tautou overshadows the movie, then Jeunet overshadows her. Jeunet, known for Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, and the unfortunate Alien: Resurrection, is at the top of his game here, and this is by far his best film. He has complete confidence with Amélie, crafting a lush feast for the eyes, with a real freedom from traditional cinematic restraints. It’s a very stylish movie to look at, but one which has the substance to support itself too. Jeunet cleverly uses GCI throughout Amélie, but uses it to reinforce elements of his main character – the quirky talking stuffed animals give an insight in Amélie’s loneliness for example, and the scene where Amélie is confronted by her crush and literally turns to water is the perfect metaphor of shyness. Throughout the film there are loads of refreshing visual quirks which give the movie a lot of personality. Jeunet also uses the movie as a love-letter to Paris, which looks beautiful here, with its little bread shops and wide, flowing streets. Computers are used to remove crowds and litter, and to brighten the sky, which creates an idealised version of the city – this isn’t how Paris is at all, but it’s how people remember it. It’s the romanticised Paris of someone who hasn’t been for a long time, a memory, and whilst some have criticised the portrayal as too quaint and unrealistic, those people are missing the point. Amélie is really a fairy tale, and it needs a magical city to thrive in; it’s not real life, but the collected best bits of life, and it all adds to the film’s infectious charm.a3If there was one word to sum up Amélie, it would be whimsical. It’s a fun, fantastic little movie, full of personality and charm, with a wonderful performance by Audrey Tautou and featuring a director at the top of his game. It has style and substance, like a box of delicious French chocolates bound in a beautiful wrapper. If you’re ever feeling a little bit down, Amélie is the perfect antidote. A modern classic and certainly a film everyone needs to see.

5/5

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One thought on “Amélie

  1. Pingback: Alien: Resurrection (1997) | Some Films and Stuff

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