20 years ago today, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris that led to much mourning and sadness throughout the world. On that same day in the same city in a small apartment, a 23 year old waitress, who was born to eccentric parents, drops a plastic perfume stopper out of shock of Diana’s death in the news. Upon catching her thoughts again, she noticed the perfume lid had actually moved a tile in her bathroom a little bit out of place. She pulls back the tile to find a small tin box…and inside it is a little tin box containing the toys and memories of a young boy who lived in the same apartment many years before. Upon this discovery, the waitress decided she would make it her mission to find the boy, and return his treasure to him. And thus, our quiet, unassuming young woman goes from Amelie Poulain the Waitress of the 2 Windmills to Amelie Poulain the scheming do-gooder who also happens to work as a waitress.
Much like how Perfect Blue got me interested in Anime and Ringu got me interested in Japanese cinema – Amelie got me interested in French Cinema, and I’m all the more thankful for it. But 16 years after its initial release, does it still hold up today?
Lets break it down, since I’ve already set up the story (before talking about whether it’s good or not).
Set in Paris, the visuals and art style are quite magnificent. If you love the romanticised version of Paris, you’ll definitely get it here – and the fact that it uses a lot of real locations turns it into 1 more reason to visit Paris to find them – including the cafe known as The 2 Windmills being a real place. It does have some CGI (such as Blubber the fish and Amelie’s imaginary friends), and while it can be seen as a little dated today, it doesn’t take anything away from the film itself – it was subtle enough.
The Acting in Amelie is less about being realistic and more focused on the fact that nearly everybody in this film is highly eccentric. Audrey Tautou puts on an awesome performance as the quiet, shy, sly, introverted and surprisingly innocent Amelie. 1 reason she was cast was because of her Bambi-like eyes, but she brought so much more than that to the character, and has been absolutely adorable all the way. In a film as strange as this, nobody stood out as bad in any way.
Nearly every character in Amelie is a Maverick of some sort, with the general quirkiness being the 1 thing that brings them together. Despite assuming that Amelie is ‘different’, if you look more into it, you begin to realise that everybody in the film is a loner. Her father’s a widower, her landlady’s a widow, her boss is a former circus performer who left due to injury, her co-workers are either chased by jealous ex-boyfriends or not seen as a catch, her customers are (sometimes) failures, the shop keeper’s assistant is an art student who’s oppressed by his brash, bratty middle aged boss, and her neighbour hasn’t left his home in 20 years due to an illness. We can also mention the love interest, who is just as alone as Amelie is. When I first saw this movie, I saw the style, the quirk and the dark amusement first, as I was a teenager at the time. But then I watched it again during a depression, and saw a very different film, and 1 I can say helped me at the time. Today I saw a different film again, and it was today that I realised how alone all of the characters in the film are, not just Amelie.
The Story (which features 1 of the greatest prologues in the history of cinema) is mostly “the quest” done several times mixed with an unorthodox Romantic comedy and the coming-of-age story. Amelie’s “other half” does exist, and much like herself, he is an eccentric loner with unusual hobbies (some people collect stamps, but he collects photo booth photos that were ripped up). The writing is very french. It’s cheeky, sarcastic, poetic, and full of derogatory descriptions. What is Amelie’s goal? It’s to make people happy without anybody knowing that she’s the 1 who set the wheels in motion and brought them to their destination. However the real challenge is when it comes to her experiencing love and happiness for herself (She’s a shy 1, remember?). Much like the romantic comedy, you’re pining for her to get with the guy who collects the photo booth pictures, and it’s quite a unique journey in that area. At the same time, I’m reminded of Terry Gilliam’s Tideland a little bit. That perhaps what is in this film is what Amelie herself sees. There’s a lot of tragedy and sadness…and yet there’s an underlying optimism to the whole thing. Like rose-tinted glasses.
The music was done by french musician Yann Tiersen, who only scored 2 other films after this 1. What really surprised me is the fact that he brushes off any notion of being a film composer, saying that he’s a Studio and Touring Musician, and that his work just so happened to work with films. In particular, this 1. It’s actually amazing when you think about it, because the music is…perfect. Perfect for this film, and it’s hard to imagine anything else playing. It’s truly delightful and memorable.
The Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel incorporates a lot of wide angle shots, as well as photo filters that are practically a trademark to the film’s director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The filters are warm, giving any highlights a very creamy, yellowy appearance, while at the same time bringing out the other 2 main colours; red and green. There is very little blue, and even the sky is practically green. But does it work? Absolutely! The dream-like appearance the filters have created (along with being beautifully shot) just make the whole thing a real gem to look at.
Would I recommend Amelie? Yes, yes, and yes. I think you can tell from looking at the score that I absolutely adore this film (It’s in my personal top 3), and would recommend it to anybody who is of age (it’s definitely not for Children, just so you know). It takes what could be seen as a very sad little world within itself and make it seem happy, quirky and interesting. Possibly suggesting to us that it’s possible to find both humour and the extraordinary within what is very ordinary. That it’s all in our heads. If this is the world in Amelie’s head, then surely we can see the world in a similar fashion? … You figure it out, and let me know what you think.
Visuals/Art Style: *****