Tuesday, May 5, 2015


AMELIE (2001)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Screenplay: Guillaume Laurent and Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Audrey Tautou is one of the best actresses alive. She’s made movies other than “Amelie,” like Stephen Frears “Dirty Pretty Things,” Ron Howard’s “The Da Vinci Code,” and the famous French comedy “The Spanish Apartment.” Jean-Pierre Jeunet has also made other movies, most famously probably “Delicatessen,” “Alien: Resurrection,”  and “A Very Long Engagement,” the latter also starring Tautou. Yet, I don’t think either of them are ever going to top “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain,” the full title which translates to “The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain”. 

Jeunet is one of those filmmakers whose style is instantly recognizable. His films are almost always beautifully shot, but he performs one of those tricks that few filmmakers can do, make the difficult and impossible to shoot come off as breathtakingly insouciant and whimsical. I don’t even want to count the number of shots and locations that he would’ve had to get in the movie. You can make whole movies on the number of scenes, locations and shots that he uses in the first ten minutes of the movie. Yet, the way he edits so freely, it feels effortless, and as carefree as his main character. 

Amelie (Tautou) is a shy and very quirky waitress in Montmartre, which is a district of Paris historically known for being the home of numerous artists. She was born to an unsociable father and a stubborn schoolmaster mother who died during a suicide attempt. (Not her own suicide attempt, someone else's) One day, the day Princess Diana died in fact, and in her shock, Amelie drops the top of her perfume bottle which rolls along her bathroom floor, letting loose a piece of wall tile, where Amelie finds a small private toy box left by a previous tenant. Amelie decides to find the owner of the box, but being Amelie, she can’t just go about it in a straightforward manner. She’s quirky, but also anti-social, and must go about her missions from strange angles and corners, creating puzzles for other people to find and solve. 

I just realized I explained Amelie similar to the way I’d explain Jigsaw for the “Saw,” movies. Obviously, Jigsaw did his puzzling for terror, Amelie does it because she’s incapable of doing it any other way. 

Or actually, she’s unwilling. That's the most intriguing thing about her, in she purposefully chooses to forgo her own bliss and happiness, so that she can only use her own quirky skills to make other people’s live better. Making old notes from long-gone lovers to appease their widows, joining together two people who are obsessed with their own lovers that they don’t realize how perfect they are for each other, for a little while anyway. The most famous one involves her father, (Rufus) who after retiring now finds himself unwilling to travel like he and his wife had planned, but somehow, his garden gnome seems to be sending him postcards from a new World Capital every week. (The gnome would later get a spokesperson deal from Travelocity.com. Okay, maybe not that gnome, but this is where they got the idea of the roaming gnome mascot) 

Finally, Amelie appears to have met her match with a local sex shop cashier, Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) who has the same quirky tendencies as Amelie, obsessed with a mysterious man who continually gets his photo taken at local photo booths around town and then tears the photos up. Tautou is the perfect muse for Jeunet, she is the only actress alive who coud’ve played this role. She’s has that quirky look that tells us that something is going on in her mind, that she’s in her own other world, hiding a childlike secret that only she knows. She may very well be. Worldwide, people are obsessed with this film and this character. It broke the top 75 on imdb.com film ranking list before it appeared in America, where it earned five Oscar nominations. 

It’s one of those movies that no matter how many times you see it, you see something new, whether a small detail or a plot point you forgot earlier, almost as though Jeunet wanted to throw everything he could think of onto the screen. Things that fascinated him. Things he liked, things he didn’t like, and just things in general, all wrapped around this strange fairy tale of two people who eventually find each other by helping others find their own happiness. 

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