**Read all the posts in our ‘Love Theatrically’ series here**
#9 – “AMÉLIE” (2001)
Directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet
Despite emerging as by far the weakest installment in the series “Alien Resurrection” does at least have one positive thing in its favour insofar as it led to director Jean Pierre Jeunet returning to France and creating the truly magical “Amélie”, a film so charming, so captivating and so irrepressibly exuberant that it should henceforth be considered prescribed viewing for anyone feeling a little disheartened with life.
With nary a poorly designed xenomorph hybrid in sight “Amélie” saw Jeunet unleash a wildly colourful magic box of cinematic surprises that coupled with Audrey Tautou’s beguiling lead performance (a role initially written for Emily Watson) resulted in quite possibly one of the most lovable, kind-hearted, sweet and affecting characters to emerge from modern cinema in many a year.
Employing a delightfully narrated montage technique first utilised in Jeunet’s 1990 short film “Foutaises” we’re first introduced to Amélie as a highly imaginative yet isolated young girl prone to elaborate flights of fancy and frequent fantastical journeys into her abundant imagination. Fast forward to the modern day and we find her, now aged 23, working as a waitress in The Two Windmills, a small café in Montmartre. Everything changes, however, the day she discovers a small metal box of childhood memorabilia hidden behind a tile in her bathroom which thus propels her on a philanthropic journey of self discovery, happiness and true love.
Upon returning the box to its rightful owner and witnessing the joyous consequences young Amélie ultimately decides to dedicate her life to doing good deeds for others yet as we witness her delightfully complex schemes and manipulations of others lives for the better so do we equally long for her to find the kind of happiness she so willingly affords those around her. So when she encounters the mysterious Nino Quincampoix (Matthieu Kassovitz) it seems she’s finally destined to live happily ever after … if only she can overcome her shyness.
Once again displaying the meticulous mastery of cinematic language and technique so gleefully employed in “The City of Lost Children” and “Delicatessen” yet eschewing the underlying dark fantasy stylings that co-director Marc Caro brought to those two films Jeunet simply delights in filling the screen with lush visuals, memorable characters and a veritable smorgasbord of ideas, wit, charm, style, soul, substance and visual splendour.
Yet whilst the Montmartre Amélie inhabits is one subtly removed from reality, with some critics overly analytical of the ultra clean, unrealistic nature of the neighbourhood, such aesthetic qualities only deepen the sense of magical wonder, fantasy and warm whimsy that so lovingly envelops the narrative. It’s a quality that is further heightened by Yann Tiersen’s wonderful score, subtle yet effective use of CGI and Bruno Delbonnel’s simply gorgeous cinematography that bathes proceedings in a vibrantly colourful aura of greens, yellows and reds.
But it’s not just the cinematography that is awash with colour as Amélie’s world is similarly inhabited by an equally colourful ensemble of truly memorable characters. Where the dilapidated apartment building in “Delicatessen” was home to a cast of wacky eccentrics and “The City of Lost Children” introduced us to a vibrant menagerie of weird and wonderful city folk here Jeunet populates Montmarte with characters every bit as memorable as Ms. Poulain herself. Whether it’s the delightful individuals who either work at or frequent The Two Windmills or Amélie’s reclusive neighbour, Raymond Dufayel, whose friendship gives her the courage to overcome her shyness and finally meet with Nino each and every character in the film is as endearingly memorable as the next. Familiar faces such as Rufus, Ticky Holgado, Yolande Moreau and Dominique Pinon flesh out the team of Jeunet regulars that also include set designer Aline Bonetto.
Yet the film undeniably belongs to the gorgeous Tautou whose imbues Amélie with such heart, soul and beauty of spirit that you’re sure to be as intoxicated with her as those whose lives she touches.
Simply put “Amélie” is cinematic Prozac, a film that’s as much a love letter to cinema itself than it is a film about love itself and one that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face, a warm glow in your heart and a skip to your step and delight even the kind of moviegoer who is usually averse to subtitled foreign fare. Simply put … c’est fabuleux!
“A woman without love wilts like a flower without sun”
Track #6 – “LE VALSE D’AMÉLIE (ORCHESTRAL VERSION)”
Composed and Performed by Yann Tiersen