Jean-Pierre Jeunet has inspired many cinematographers and art directors with his work and "Amélie" remains his grand achievement. With so much work given in creating such an interesting French world, it's too bad the central story is shrug-worthy.
In the heart of Paris, Amelie (Audrey Tautou) brings joy to her friends, secretly sorting out the sad little problems in their lives. But when she discovers a strange photo album belonging to Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) she realises that she is in love and has problems of her own to sort out.
I struggle to think of a contemporary film that boasts such richness in detail and creative, infectious enthusiasm as 'Amelie' does. It's playfulness, poetry and emotion are rarely touched upon these days in film and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet deserves applause for his uplifting achievements here. It's also stunningly shot by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (inspired by the paintings of Brazilian artist Juarez Machado) lending an artistic look to the highly creative and artistic content. Without being overly elaborate though, it finds its art in the simple things in life, observing people's individual pleasures and pains. Quite simply, the whole film is a complete joy to behold. The performances are also delightful. As much as I'm an admirer of actress Emily Watson (whom the role of Amelie was originally intended) I'm glad the relatively unknown Audrey Tautou got the part. She is absolutely adorable and captures the essence of this wonderful character perfectly. With flair and originality that's hard to come by these days, 'Amelie' is one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I have seen and will always be one of my favourites.
The humour; the look; the characters and performances; the delightful and fitting music by Yann Tiersen all culminate into the ultimate feel-good film and confirmation of the creativity and inventiveness of French cinema. A heartwarming modern classic.
Amélie Poulain is an eccentric young girl with a roving imagination and an infinitely charming disposition. One day, she finds a little tin box in a hidden compartment at her home. Inside the box is an assortment of memorabilia and trinkets, and she makes it her mission to find the owner of this treasure. When the return of the box triggers a slight reform in the habits of its owners, Amélie decides to try and help everyone that she can. This kind goal leads not only to the happiness of others, but to her finding her one true love on the way.
Audrey Tautou is absolutely entrancing as the lead role of Amélie. She is both quirky and warm, without feeling forced in her acting. It is an essential quality of the film, since she is of course the focal force of it all. Amélie's actions, however small, are testaments to her caring nature and in return she gets to see the lives of others change in interesting ways. The supporting cast does a great job of being simultaneously extensions of Amélie's kindness and independently interesting characters. In the beginning, we are given a few random facts about each of them which oddly enough give more depth to their character than otherwise. What they love, what they hate, it creates a lasting bond with the characters that never goes away.
That is what makes Amélie wonderful. It doesn't focus on what is obvious, but focuses more on what is important to the individual. Age, job, past difficulties and successes, all of these things are forgotten shortly after their announcement. However, the fact that Amélie loves to skip stones, that she loves to crack the caramelized sugar on a créme brulée with a teaspoon; that is what says more about her character than anything else. She is also always learning something new and in her pursuit of granting others happiness, she learns a lot about herself too and her weaknesses. The people she meets become both mentors and recipients of kindness, helping her in finding her way as much as being helped themselves.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet is ever present in the film's look and direction. Amélie is a film that, not surprisingly, takes pleasure in being flamboyant and at times random. Some scenes are fast-forwarded, in others the camera shakes profoundly to emulate a speeding locomotive's force and the desperation of the moment. The surroundings are bursting with color, beautiful reds, yellows and oranges ornate the scenery and makes it its own character in the film. Jeunet specializes in being whimsical and its here where his vision really gets to shine. Instead of alluding to certain elements, he'll often just show it out right. If Amélie is imagining something, we get to see it happen in real time. Amélie becomes all the more special for it and it helps to maintain an almost constant dream-like sheen over the film.
Amélie is just filled with life and energy, and instead of being overbearing and obnoxious, it delivers its vision, its message and its glee with an effortless panache. It's both funny, heart-felt and pretty, rising out of the crowd like the character Amélie herself. It never loses sight of humanity's lighter side and instead of looking through the eyes of a pessismist, what we see is a society that just needs a helping hand. What we must do, then, is be like Amélie, and take life as the gift that it is.