Friday, December 18, 2009

Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amélie) (2001)

Feeling listless and uninspired while working on some final art projects, I turned to one of the most beautiful films I know: Amélie. After discovering a long-hidden box of a little boy's treasures in her apartment, shy and imaginative waitress Amélie (Audrey Tatou) decides to track down the now-middle-aged owner and anonymously return it to him. Seeing the nostalgia and joy it brings him, she decides to become a professional do-gooder, going out of her way to secretly help her neighbors and co-workers in little ways.

She makes silly film compilations for the brittle-boned "Glass Man" (an elderly painter who can't leave his house), covertly hooks up the cafe's cigarette woman with a regular customer, and forges a lost love letter to her landlady from her long-dead husband. When she discovers a scrapbook filled with torn-up photobooth photos dropped by the adorable Nico (Mathieu Kassovitz), Amélie sense a kindred whimsical, lonely spirit and puts into action several stratagems that avoid physical interaction but spur his interest. She hates her own shyness but is afraid of actually meeting him, resulting in a kind of romantic game of cat and mouse.

This movie is beautiful in every sense of the word. It's emotionally resonant and visually resplendent, with a haunting score from Yann Tiersen and fine performances from everyone involved. Each shot is carefully planned and placed, with a wealth of details and a playful over-saturation. This candy-colored vision of Paris is charmingly dream-like, putting forth a type of city I so wish I could visit. But I guess that's one of the great things about film- the ability to create a personalized, impossible world not seen in real life

Amélie's story is simple on paper, but executed in an intricate, loving way, full of little inter-connected subplots and enjoyable supporting characters; I find something new every time I watch it. Tatou anchors the film with her lovely performance as the title character, delighting in the idiosyncrasies and self-assuredness of this creative but reserved woman. Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon stands out as the obsessive cafe customer Joseph, as does Jamel Debbouze as the childlike vegetable seller Lucien. And of course, there's Nico. Too, too adorable. Mathiew Kassovitz knows the way into my heart is through a distinctive nose, an artistic hobby, and a moped. He doesn't get a lot of dialogue, but he somehow radiates this aura of instant likability.

There is basically nothing I have ever found wrong with Amélie. I know this type of whimsical, saturated film style isn't for everyone, and its cutesiness might be grating to some, but I am always won over by its earnestness, detail, humanistic story, and magnificent visual style. This is a film in which it's clear that everyone put their whole hearts, resulting in a complex and evocative work that never becomes stale. It opens up a sort of wistful nostalgia for me, envisioning a perspective and lifestyle I'd love to have.

Plus, now that I've been to Montmartre in real life, I have the added joy of annoyingly saying "OMG I'VE BEEN THERE" at certain moments. Oh, simple pleasures.



  1. See...this is the sort of film everyone should be watching a week before Christmas. Whether it has a holiday tilt to it or not, people should make it their mission this week to watch movies that inspire, amuse, and enlighten.

    A few years ago, an art house cinema in my town did a free screening for Christmas, and in the spirit of what you posted and I commented...they showed CINEMA PARADISO.

    Pardon me - I'm off to cue up some inspiring flicks.

  2. Hatter: I agree, though my search for inspiration in this instance was due to a challenging art project and not christmas spirit. Also, I still haven't seen Cinema Paradiso. Maybe I should get on that!

    Nicole: Fur pie doesn't sell.

  3. @ Alex... Good point. For me though the film can serve both purposes - it can inspire and uplift.

    Now get on seeing CINEMA PARADISO - you can thank me later!