on December 13, 2001
I have seen thousands of films in my life, and thought nothing could surprise me anymore on a screen. Amelie proved me I was wrong. Instead of writing another "best film ever" comment, I would like to give some indications for non-french speaking viewers, as the translation might have made some lines a bit obscure.
Amelie says to Colignon "Meme les artichauds ont du coeur" (Even artichokes have a heart). In french, "un coeur d'artichaud" (an artichoke heart) is a person that falls very often and easily in love.
Colignon calls Amelie "Amelie-melo" (pronounce "ah-may-LEE-may-low") which sounds like "un meli-melo", a muddle or mix-up.
In the cafe, people discuss about time and weather, as the same word "temps" means both "le temps qui passe" (time that passes) and "le temps qu'il fait" (the weather). So goes Hippolito's theory : they speak about the weather because they are afraid of the passing time.
Collignon says about his mother : "Elle a une memoire d'elephant, un elephant de mer" (literally: she has memory like an elephant, a sea elephant). A "sea elephant" is a sort of walrus, and "mer" (sea) and "mere" (mother) are pronounced the same.
When Amelie is in a theater, she watches "Jules & Jim", a movie by Francois Truffaut. There are many references to Truffaut in the movie : Claire Maurier plays the mother in "the 400 blows" and many scenes refer to "Bed and Board", which itself refers to Hitchcock's "Rear window". I still have to figure which was the movie whith Spencer Tracy driving without watching...
When Amelie watches her projected life on TV, a scene that refers to Woody Allen's "Zelig", the voice over is from Frederic Mitterand, nephew of his uncle, who is famous for commenting weddings or funerals of aristocrats on french TV.
The "likes/dislikes" narration was experimented by Jeunet in a short movie "Foutaise" with Dominique Pinon, that will be included in the collector edition of the DVD. It also refers to "La vie, mode d'emploi" (Life: a user's manual) from Georges Perec, although Jeunet admits he could never finish the book.
Most TV scenes are stock shots. The story about the horse running in the Tour de France is true. Most stories told in the film are true, including the one about collecting discarded pictures.
There are numerous references in the movie, including to other Jeunet films. The scene in the mystery train is almost a copy of a similar scene in Alien : Resurrection where Ripley has an almost tender behaviour with the alien.
Finally, "Amelie" comes from "Emily", as Emily Watson was supposed to play the role, and "Poulain" is both a young untrained horse and a chocolate brand. And this is not a coincidence.
Like the star of Chocolat, the title character of this magical comedy also wants to heal people inside. But this particular healer is a daydreamer with an irresistible smile, a Louise Brooks bob hairstyle or an Audrey Hepburn-like bun when it's tied up, and will charm the pants off the iciest of souls.
The only-child of a tight-lipped, hard-hearted doctor father and a neurotic schoolteacher mother, Amelie Poulaine grew up being too much unloved, with a not too happy childhood. As a young lady, she becomes a waitress at the Two Windmills cafe, but other times spends her time in an imaginative world of dreams, not forming close ties with people, being terribly shy.
One day, she is watching TV when Princess Diana's death is announced. From then on, she decides to be a healer of sorts, whether it be uniting a man with childhood memories he left in a cubbyhole in the skirting board long time ago, trying to soothe the hearts of people, make people's lives better, or being an avenging angel. The scene where she helps a blind man across the street and describes what's going on is simply magical.
Amelie is also befriended by artist Raymond Dufayel, known as the Glass Man because of a disease that has given him very brittle bones. They communicate indirectly through a painting he's working on, particularly a young girl that Dufayel's trying to figure out.
Amelie meets Nino Quincompoix, a man who collects discarded, frequently torn ID card photos from a photo booth and puts the reconstructed pieces in an album. Included in there many times is a stern bald man whose pictures are always torn up. Amelie finds Nino's album and wonders who the bald man is. This is a mystery included in the film.
There's Colignon the grocer, an obnoxious middle-aged man who delights himself in disparaging his assistant Lucien, who's slow-witted but nice and sensitive. Amelie feels sorry for Lucien and the scenes where she becomes his avenging angel at Colignon's expense are hilarious. At one point she tells Colignon, "You'll never be a vegetable. Even artichokes have hearts." Ouch, but well deserved.
Amelie's widowed father spends his life collecting garden statues to decorate his dead wife's shrine, instead of travelling around the world. Amelie steals one of them, a bearded garden gnome complete with red pointed hat, and then something weird happens. A few days later, her father receives a postcard from the gnome, who is apparently on holiday abroad!!! This goes on for a while and completely baffles him.
Audrey Tautou would've been my choice for Best Actress of the year. I simply melted everytime she smiled in the movie. She also bears a slight similarity to another Audrey--Hepburn. Both have in common black hair, a face brimming with charm, and irresistible smiles. Maybe that's why it was love at first sight with me.
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet uses some quirky film techniques, mostly visual imagery, such as a scene when Amelie literally dissolves into water. The onscreen narration is also useful. At times, it sets the stage for turning points in the film. Earlier, it describes the likes and hates of the Poulaines and the one important characteristic of the Two Windmill employees. He creates an imaginative film that's a breather from the usual Hollywood grind. But it's his closeups of Amelie and her smile that make this worth seeing over and over.
on October 17, 2001
Before I urge you to rush out and revel in this romantic wisp of a movie, I must warn you that it is the kind of film that will make you either quake with bleary joy, or propel you out of the cinema with an ungovernable urge to smash things. If the words 'sugar', 'naive' or 'cute' are not in your vocabulary; if the mere sight of a bobbed gamine making eyes at you across the screen doesn't make your heart flutter; if scenes where lamps discuss their owner's love life with her paintings, or a young girl screams to save her suicidal goldfish don't enchant you, than, in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan, don't go.
If, however, you feel your spiritual home is in France, than 'Amelie' might just make you fall in love again. it is for those who love Paris in sunshine or rain; who palpitate at the very thought of tree-lined Parisian streets and cafes; who have experienced haunting musical epiphanies at night in empty Metro stations; who have read Raymond Queneau novels; who rejoice in street markets, Renoir paintings, or the sight of horses running in the Tour de France.
'Amelie' is a romantic comedy for those who prefer the chase to the clinch. its heroine is almost a ghost, unloved and friendless as a child, who presides disembodied over strangers' lives, linking characters, punishing baddies and deciding destinies in ways that seem supernatural to them. She can only observe others from a distance and act accordingly - her own life remains emotionally dead. Of the various Queneau-like mysteries, red-herrings, non-sequiters and paper trails strewn throughout the film, the most pressing and emotionally charged is - will Amelie find love and rejoin the real world?
The film is unashamedly nostalgic in its romantic vision of a vanished (never-was?) Paris, where musette is still played in sparse cafes, and funfairs and ghost trains become sites of erotic possibility. The CGI effects are used not for inhuman spectacle, but to do rich justice to individuals' inner lives. The idea of reworking the past; the comfort of myths, lies and delusions; the creation of one's own future - these are some of the film's themes, and they encompass characters, culture and place. As such, the film has been condemned as reactionary. It's probably sexist (although I identified with Amelie, rather than simply fancying her).
It has reminded people of various reference points from the Oulipo writers to the early films of the French New Wave to Ally MacBeal. its most recent counterpart might be 'Magnolia', from the opening narrtion with its comic chaos theory, and its narrative about disparate people trying to connect, to the godlike force that contrives to do so. But it's much more treasurable than that. i loved this film. I loved the adorable Audrey Tautou, funny and smart, with huge melancholy eyes - a 21st century Audrey Hepburn. I loved the way the film felt like a cinematic novel without being literary. I loved the way the mystery plots took on emotional dimensions - the connection of clues to recover the past to restore happiness. I loved the colours, especially those rich reds; the wistful accordian music; the love of vignettes, photographs, chance, fantasy, dreams...
....P>I saw Amelie first in the theater, but my real appreciation is for the DVD. The transfer to DVD is almost legendary, it is done so well. It helps to start with the magical direction of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who oversaw impeccable camerawork and a script loaded with charm into the film you will see on the DVD. It was obviously a labor of love, and Jeunet worked nearly as hard on the special features that accompany the film on the 2-disc set. The audition tapes, the story of the "home movies" within the film and the chats with Jeunet and the cast are all captivating.
Jeunet successfully uses voiceover as a tool in the film, allowing the viewer to quickly react to the situations encountered by both child and adult Amelie. He's artistically clever with his music, with flashbacks, and with dream sequence to give you a series of interconnecting events, all leading up to the theme of redemption and the enjoyment of life through the joy you give to others. In particular, the use of photos, the booby traps for a local grocer with a nasty temper, and the delightful traveling garden gnome are creative and funny.
There would be no story without Audrey Tatou, the whimsical actress who embodies Amelie. Audrey Hepburn at a young age, she is incredibly charming and quirky. It will be interesting to see if her career takes her beyond this, a signature role.
You'll love owning and watching Amelie, it is one of life's small treasures!
on November 11, 2001
I write that review in English in fact that I am French. Why? Because I hope all American people from this planet will see that movie. Personaly, I saw it 4 times.
Amelie is not just a woman, it is all a way of thinking. Optimism, love, respect, generosity, humor, sensibility, beauty, art, everything. By this, we see that there is a simple way to find happiness, in the simple things of life. The actors are all, all wonderful, playing easily with their eyes, face, to make us, in the audience, feel their emotions.
In one scene, Amélie confess that she likes seeing the faces of all the people in a movie theater, just to see their expressions. And we see, in the same time, the faces of the audience where she is. I am sure, totally sure that all the people who saw that movie had the same smiles that we see in the audience inside the movie that she sees.
USA, go to see it, it will put a breeze, a touch of Grace inside your heart. And you will have, on those hard days, the motivation to change the world around you. Because Amélie will change you for sure.
Enjoy! C'est un film merveilleux!
on December 4, 2001
The Toronto International Film Festival has a history of picking arty hits before they break. Past winners of its prestigious Audience Award include "Chariots of Fire" (1981), "The Princess Bride" (1987), "The Fisher King" (1991), and, most tellingly, over the last three years it has honoured "Life is Beautiful", "American Beauty", and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". The 2001 award went to a film that fully lives up to that lofty pedigree: "Amelie".
"Amelie" is a movie that inspires one to use an assortment of frothy adjectives: whimsical, surreal, pleasant, charming, magical, effervescent, and inspiring. I could go on, but I figure it also deserves to have its praise sung in complete sentences.
It begins with a kinetic retelling of Amelie's childhood. The product of overprotective parents, Amelie develops a shy nature, but also an abundant imagination. This section also introduces an appealing way to sketch characters: through their likes and dislikes. Amelie's father loves the simple pleasure of cleaning out his toolbox. Her mother hates garden gnomes. Amelie herself gets lost in the activity of skipping stones across the water. It's a neat little short hand that the film uses to quickly introduce the audience to its characters. Better to spend your time showing the characters involved in the story, than to waste too much time on needless character exposition.
When Amelie grows up, we see her simple little life: working at an eclectic diner, walking the streets of Paris, and retreating to the solitude of her apartment, where she can surreptitiously spy on her neighbours (my favourite: The Glass Man, so named for his brittle bones, who's always painting a replica of Renoir's 'The Luncheon of the Boating Party'.). A chance discovery leads Amelie on a quest to quietly do good deeds, in order to make everybody else's life better. But who is to make Amelie's life better? Watch closely, and be prepared to be moved.
Amelie's actions reminded me a lot of the main character in another foreign art-house hit, featuring a charismatic and beautiful female lead sprawling out across her city in an attempt to counteract the fates, "Run Lola Run". Where Franka Potente's Lola was all kinetic energy and brute physical power, Amelie relies on her playful nature to make things right again. Audrey Tautou, who plays Amelie, sports a lopsided haircut, has huge but asymmetrical eyes, and a glorious smile. She stomps around Paris in pretty dresses and clunky shoes. I dare you to try and take your eyes off of her. Her charisma is so magnetic you could stick her on your fridge. But Tautou is also perfectly adept at portraying Amelie's more shy moments. It is this contradiction, the attractive but introverted young woman, which makes Amelie such an appealing and fascinating character. She is surrounded by a wonderful cast, portraying a menagerie of wonderful characters. Standouts include Serge Merlin as the aforementioned Glass Man, Isabelle Nanty as a hypochondriac tobacconist, and Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon as a hyper-jealous diner customer.
Take another look at the list of adjectives in the first paragraph above. Could they also be applied to the other films in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's filmography? "Delicatessen"? Magical, maybe. "City of Lost Children"? Surreal, surely. "Alien Resurrection"? That's a tough one. The point is that "Amelie" is a drastic left-turn for the French writer-director. It's much lighter in tone, is set in a world that more or less closely resembles our own, and is truly life affirming. But Jeunet retains his sense of flair with the camera. "Amelie" is a wonder to look at, in that it's composed of a series of beautiful and kinetic shots, which serve to push the story along and create insight into its characters. Witness one scene, where a young man asks advice from his boss at a Sex Shop. They casually talk about the mysterious woman trying to get his attention. But the camera slowly zooms in to reveal that said conversation is taking place while they are pricing and stocking boxes of dildos. Jeunet has a perverse sense of humour, and this is just one shining example of it. He also provides his film with a wonderful score, taken from old Paris, but updated to reflect the film's more magical moments (those magical moments include: Amelie, in a moment of embarrassment, turns to water and splashes to the floor; Her bedside lamp, which has a pig in a suit as it's base, reaches out and turns itself off).
"Amelie" manages a fine balance between a ridiculous sense of fun and severe melancholy. It gets both emotions just right. Some would say that at over 2 hours, the film runs too long. I beg to differ. I could have spent the whole afternoon and most of the night exploring Amelie's fascinating little world. Be prepared for a sense of loss when the credits finally roll. You'll surely miss the joys of "Amelie" once they're gone.
on August 16, 2002
Pour moi, this film is the gift that keeps on giving. A sweet, romantic and inspiring modern classic, this French film is like comfort food. If a bad day is plaguing you, pop this one in and revel in its instant catharsis. Starring doe-eyed, instantly charming Audrey Hepburn incarnate Audrey Tautou as the shy but quirky main character, the viewer is instantly transported into her delicately colored, imaginative world. Amelie leads a quiet life, working as a waitress in a restuarant filled with dysfunctional characters, occasionally caring for her friend's cat and indulging in simple pleasures. Then one fateful day, her life changes forever. Upon finding a childhood keepsake and returning it to the owner, she becomes a secret guardian angel to the people around her. But while she can make others happy, she just can't seem to make things click with handsome stranger Nino (the talented and good looking Mathieu Kassovitz). The story plays out in a magical Parisan backdrop that only adds to the story's charm. The film is slow, sweet torture when it comes to the unfolding romance between Amelie and Nino, but when it gets to the climax, you can't help feeling amazing. Even when I watch this for the 100th time I get that heart-pumping, mind-blowing feeling of true love. So make a list of your likes and dislikes and indulge.
on June 1, 2002
What a fun film! From the moment it begins, "Amelie" bursts with joy and energy. It's a fable of sorts, a love letter to a Paris fondly dreamt of by many. It may not be the real world, but it is such a delightful fantasy that it doesn't matter how unbelievable some of it may be. "Amelie" is the rare romantic comedy that has both the romance and the comedy. It isn't very surprising that this has been a hit in France for a while now, and I have no doubt it will find the audience it needs in the States as well.
Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) is a naive girl working at the Two Windmills Cafe. When she was a child her mother and teacher was an innocent victim of a suicide gone awry. Amelie stayed with her father until she was old enough to leave and lead a life of her own. One day she finds a small box of treasures behind a tile in her wall, she decides to return it to her owner and become a natural do-gooder. Later on, she catches a man groping for lost photos under a photo booth (Nino Quincampoix, played by Mathieu Kassovitz), and it's love at first sight. She decides to go on a quest to find this man and help anyone she can along the way (including her father and co-workers).
I said before that this film was a love letter to Paris, it is also a love letter to Amelie herself. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director and co-screenwriter) conjured the film like a dream, as if Amelie is his dream girl and he is trying to save her and bring her to a happy ending. It's not hard to want everything to work out for her and her friends. Amelie Poulain is the kind of person who you wish was your best friend, your neighbor or your sister. She bounces along with good grace and whimsy living life to its fullest, yet keeping a mischievous grin. She has her own idea of justice that isn't very disagreeable. The tormentors must in turn be tormented; the lifeless must be brought to life. The film is like a non-musical "Bells Are Ringing", with our heroine bringing so much life to those around her but neglecting her wants and needs.
After seeing Audrey Tautou as Amelie, I can't possibly imagine anyone else in that role. She embodies Amelie like no one else could, she is a rare find that pulls off the job of breathing life into Amelie in spades. Wait, I take that back. She does not just breathe life into Amelie, Tautou makes her jump off the screen and pull the audience into the story. It would be a crime for her not to get a Best Actress nomination for her role.
Magical is the world that Amelie lives in, where photos and lamps come alive to aid her quest, where TV shows are showing nothing but her story. The story this setting surrounds is pretty standard, and presented plainly could have just been another machine-processed romantic comedy. Is it too sappy? No. On the contrary, the film takes quite a few steps to make sure it doesn't become tacky or conventional. The rich, storybook setting and a witty screenplay (asides are taken to deepen our connection each character, little things that each likes and dislikes) make the film all the more a delight to watch. The cinematography, crafted by Bruno Delbonnel, does wonders for "Amelie". The camera captures the action with an eye of a child in a candy store, beautifully bringing about each shot as a new discovery.
With films like "The Widow of Saint-Pierre", "With a Friend Like Harry" and box-office hit "Brotherhood of the Wolf", French cinema has had quite a year. It's a delight that we round off the year with "Amelie", a fresh, funny journey that could have easily just been more Meg Ryan-esque romantic comedy fodder. If not for anything else, see it for Tautou's performance, but prepare to be smothered in a dream world.
I won't belabor the point. Either you "get it" or you don't. The movie is loaded with emotion, charm, mystery, excitement, and quiet beauty. It's the story of an unusual French woman who is trying to find happiness, while not losing her quirky nature. Amelie is utterly charming and engrossing, due in part to the performance of the lead, Audrey Tautou, but also due to the really spectacularly beautiful cinematography, color palette, and shot compositions. It's in French, and that's the only audio track on this disc. So know that you will have to read subtitles. But it's worth it.
OK. What do we want in order to induce us to buy a movie on Blu-Ray that we already own on DVD? In my book, there are three things:
1. A reasonable price
2. All of the extras from the previous release
3. A video transfer that offers an easily appreciable improvement.
Long review short, Amelie on Blu-Ray delivers on all three counts. Encoded onto a single BD-50 disc, this release contains a 1080p transfer of the film itself, and all special features. The special features are all in standard definition, 4:3. This is a disappointment, but is par for the course on a catalog re-release like this. The point is, they're all here, so you can ditch your DVD.
The video transfer is truly wondrous. Detail is through the roof, displaying facial pores, cloth textures, and individual hairs that just were not evident on the DVD. The amped-up, slightly hot color scheme from the DVD and theatrical presentations is preserved accurately. There are no compression artifacts or color banding evident at any point. There appears to be no visible edge enhancement, and no digital noise reduction to interfere with detail. Blacks are dark and solid, but not crushed. If your brightness and gamma are set properly, you will be rewarded with loads of detail near black, especially on Tautou's dark hair.
The audio sounds pretty much like the same DTS track from the DVD. I did not notice any changes or improvements, but then, I'm not much of an audiophile. It is a dialogue heavy movie, with atmospheric surrounds only at key moments. I will say that Tatou's performance is very softspoken, so sometimes the balance between these moments required more fiddling than I would like. But it's not awful.
OK - so why am I giving this 4 stars instead of 5? My main gripe is the 14 full minutes of preview material at the front end of the disc - which cannot be skipped by pressing "Top Menu." Instead, you have to manually advance through each stinking one, every single time you want to play the disc. There is a rudimentary "resume" feature, but this only saves your bacon if you failed to watch all the way through on your previous viewing, and if your player has continuous power and storage. Whenever you pop the disc in for a fresh viewing, here come the previews.
It never ceases to amaze me how certain companies, and Lionsgate/Miramax is chief among them, punish their customers for purchasing their movies. I can't stand it, and it sours an otherwise lovely experience.
My other gripe, which is more minor, is the paucity of subtitle options. On a 50gb disc, only having English and Spanish subs available is pretty lame. My wife had wanted a disc with French subtitles, so she could listen along with the French also being displayed on the screen. At least the titles aren't "burned" onto the transfer, meaning you can turn them off if you like. For those with constant-image-height front projection screens, you will be happy to know that the titles are entirely within the image field, not the letterbox bars.
If you love this movie and have a Blu-Ray setup, it's hard to argue against this package. Cheap, beautiful, and comprehensive, it delivers on all fronts. If it weren't sabotaged by irritating decisions on the part of marketing boobs, it would be five stars all the way. As it is, it's still a must-buy for fans.
on August 9, 2002
I don't often view foreign language films. I find it maddening to try to read the subtitles and watch the film at the same time. Also, I had heard such glowing reviews about this film that I was prepared to be disappointed as well as frazzled. I could not have been more wrong.
This is a wonderful, wonderful film. Amelie (Audrey Tautou) is a mousey girl living in Paris whose life is so ordinary that it borders on pathetic. One day she discovers a tin box in her apartment with little toys and keepsakes of a young child that was hidden behind a wall decades ago. She sets out on a mission to find the boy and return the treasures to him. If the mission has a positive effect, she vows to devote herself to doing good deeds for others. This leads to numerous touching and droll adventures, where Amelie doles out her own personal brand of justice to various characters, both good and evil. Along the way she discovers love and turns it into a cat and mouse game of mystery and fascination, making her lover fall for her and pursue her without ever knowing who she is.
The story is brilliantly written, with a wry sense of humor. Only the French could make mundane situations so funny, ironic, charming and philosophical at the same time. It is a marvelous mix of intrigue, misdirection and offbeat humor. Director Jean Pierre Jeunet squeezes the maximum amount of wit, sentimentality and humanness from every frame. The Parisian street scenes are wonderfully done showing us more of an insider's look at Paris than a tourist's guidebook.
Audrey Tautou is captivating in the lead role. She reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, full of breathy enthusiasm with a twinkle in her eye and mischief on her mind. When she is good she's wonderful, and when she's bad she's even better.
This is an enthralling delight of a film, like a glass of sparkling French burgundy. It will make you chuckle and tug your heart strings. I rated it a 10/10. Even if you hate subtitles, see this film. You won't regret it.