REVIEW: DVD Release: Amelie

Film: Amelie
Release date: 15th April 2002
Certificate: 15
Running time: 116 mins
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Dominique Pinon,
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Studio: Momentum
Format: DVD
Country: France

After a so-so Hollywood detour with Alien: Resurrection, Jean-Pierre Jeunet regained the favour won with such visionary works as Delicatessen and The City Of Lost Children, with this worldwide smash hit.

Amelie Poulain lives a solitary and sheltered childhood with few friends for company. She is educated at home whilst her father works as a doctor, and has precious little time for his only child.

Her mother dies when she is very young and, as a result of her lonely surroundings, Amelie begins to retreat more and more into her own mind for solace, where she spends most of her time in a dream world instead of facing the reality around her.

Years later, in her early twenties, Amelie moves to Paris and starts working as a waitress at the Two Windmills Café. The adult Amelie is an imaginative but introverted young woman, who lives a quiet and isolated life.

After a string of coincidences lead her to find a box hidden in her apartment, she develops an insatiable desire to help others. Due to her introverted nature, she chooses not to help people openly; instead she sets up intricate plans and trails and watches from a distance as they are touched by her actions. But when Amelie finds she is falling in love, she realises that the hardest person to help is herself…

There is more than a touch of fairytale to this charming story, even down to Jeunet’s picturesque portrayal of the city of Paris. But the main credit has to go to Audrey Tautou, who makes the character of Amelie completely her own, depicting the contrastingly innocent and mischievous nature of Amelie perfectly. With this film, she shot to fame not just in France but worldwide, and deservedly so. Given her career and performances since, it seems this role was tailor made, with the depth of perception she brought.

Although the story itself is a fairly simple one, which anybody can relate to and understand, and it is told eloquently and imaginatively. The side storylines of the characters in Amelie’s life – her work colleagues, parents and neighbours – often add comic value without taking away from the focus of the tale. Instead, they provide us with a backdrop to Amelie’s ventures; first as she goes about trying to improve other people’s lives, and later as she turns to seducing one man in particular (Mathieu Kassovitz) in order to enhance her own.

The filmmakers encourage us to pay attention to detail, as it reveals people’s small quirks and habits, which generally go unnoticed by society. Amelie is a firm believer in life’s small pleasures, and she encourages the audience to consider those little things in our life that brighten up our day. As each of the main characters is introduced, the narrative voice-over provides us with titbits of information about the character’s personality, including their ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, which help in turn to give us a sense of intimacy, as we begin to understand how these people work. It is that beauty in the small details, even though it may not always be visible to the naked eye that makes this film so precious.

A combination of comedy genius, witty one-liners (“She liked to spread her legs, but only on silk”), a hint of fantasy and a touching sentiment, make this a rare success in the blending of comedy and romance.

Whimsical and life affirming, Amelie is a unique experience which shouldn’t be missed. A rare movie gem. EW

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