Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Originally Written and Posted on 6/15/08 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.

When French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet arrived to the cinema with 1991's black-comedy Delicatessen with directing partner Marc Caro. It unveiled two new voices in cinema with Jeunet providing a colorful look to the film with Caro providing the effects. The duo scored a much bigger hit with the fantasy film The City of Lost Children that allowed the duo to make a Hollywood film. The project they were given was the fourth Alien film of the franchise entitled Alien: Resurrection with Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon writing the screenplay.

Despite making a profit, the film wasn't well-received with critics and audiences with Jeunet given sole credit as Caro did work on the art direction. Jeunet was disappointed by the experience of making the film despite the clout it gave him as he and Caro parted ways. In 2001, after a break, Jeunet returned with a film that would re-define his career as well as establish himself as one of cinema's finest artists with the film entitled Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain (The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain) or simply, Amelie.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet with a script he co-wrote with Guillaume Laurant, Amelie tells the story of a shy waitress who makes life better for those around her while struggling with her own isolation. A lighter, more colorful fare than his previous work, the film explores the whimsical world of contemporary Parisian life through the eyes of a young woman. Starring Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Dominique Pinon, Yolande Moreau, and in the voice of the narrator, Andre Dussolier. Amelie is a wonderful, imaginative, and heartwarming masterpiece from Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) has always lived a life of imagination despite being born to her antisocial ex-Army doctor father Raphael (Rufus) and her nerve-stricken mother Amandine (Lorella Cravotta). While she had a whimsical life as a child (Flora Guiet), she also had a weak heart condition while her mother died in a freak accident due to the suicide of a Quebecois woman at the Notre Dam Cathedral. While her father would make a shrine for his wife, Amelie's imagination grew as she became a waitress with a group of eccentrics that included its manager Suzanne (Claire Maurier), a waitress named Gina (Clotilde Molett), the cigarette clerk Georgette (Isabelle Nanty), Gina's ex-boyfriend Joseph (Dominique Pinon), and a failed writer named Hipolito (Artus de Penguern).

Despite a lack of a thriving social life and her frequent weekend trips to see her father, she would have strange pleasures that plays to her personality until the death of Princess Diana were she finds a mysterious box in her apartment. After asking her landlady Madeleine Wallace (Yolande Moreau), the market owner Collignon(Urbain Cancelier), and Collignon's parents (Michel & Andree Damant), Amelie is able to find Dominique Bretodeau (Maurice Benichou) with help from her neighbor Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin). Leaving the box to Bretodeau allowed Amelie to do good for people to fulfill her own life to deal with her own lonely life

After playing matchmaker to Georgette and Joseph while helping out Lucien (Jamel Debbouze) deal with Collignon. Yet, Amelie find herself falling for a man named Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz) whom she had seen in the train station as he had just lost a book of photos. Amelie decides to play a game with his book in order to get to know him more as she learns about him as he works in a fair and at a porno shop with friend Eva (Claude Perron). With Amelie continuing to help other people while stealing her father's gnome and having a stewardess travel with it all over the world. Nino starts to respond to Amelie's game in hopes to contact her as he uses some unexpected help to reach her.

Imagination is truly one of the strongest forms of escapism and in the vision of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, he creates a film that is dream-like but also whimsical. What this film is about is a young woman, with not much to fulfill her life decides to play a role in being a guardian angel of sorts for the people around her including her father and landlady. Yet, when she falls for a mysterious man who is also lonely and has quirks, she doesn't know how to react nor how to talk to him and such. Yet, amidst all of Amelie's drama, Jeunet and co-writer Guillaume Laurant make a wise decision to profile all of the people that Amelie has an effect on.

The script is wonderfully written that includes an amazing narrative told by Andre Dussolier who reveals the unique world that Amelie lives by as well as the assortment of characters that the audience get to enjoy and care about. Yet, through the center of it all, the main focus is in its title character. The narrator reveals her childhood existence, her odd behavior, and quirky imagination as well as her longing to connect with people in a unique manner. Throughout all of this, the script flows through easily as Dussolier's narration is told in such a manner and style that isn't distracting but an essential part to the story.

If Jeunet and Laurant's script is filled with lots of wonder and humor, Jeunet's direction is the key to the film's unique look and feel. While some might accuse Jeunet of creating a postcard look of sorts for Paris, his vision is more in tune in what Amelie sees in Paris as this dream-like yet beautiful city of full of wonder and life. Yet, with its sepia, dream-like look, it's a film full of energy and life that includes visual effects to play to the film's whimsical nature and oddball humor. Yet, the drama is told with such subtlety, it doesn't pander down to anything over-dramatic and sentimental. The way Jeunet tells the story with such style and warmth for the characters involved is truly magnificent. Even how he presents them through zoom lenses, long tracking shots, and such, he also uses things like films, events, and even the Renoir painting that Dufayel is trying to recreate to tell his story. The result is truly a fascinating, charming, and heartwarming style of direction from the wondrous mind of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel does a wonderful job with the film's picturesque, sepia-drowned look with yellowish colors and shades of red and such to convey the dreamy mood of the film. Delbonnel's photography is exquisite and stylish for every scene shot as his camera moves with such ease and energy to convey the whimsical nature of the film. Editor Herve Schneid does a fabulous job in the film’s editing including the use of stock footage, old films including the classic Jules et Jim by Francois Truffaut, and TV footage. Schneid's editing also plays up to the film’s whimsical nature as its emphasis on styles moves from a smooth, transitional editing style to sometimes, speed-cutting to add to the film's sense of energy and eccentricity.

Production designer Aline Bonetto along set decorator Marie-Laure Valla and art director Volker Schafer do a fantastic job with the film's look from the real coffee shops and markets that Amelie goes to along with various locations in Paris and France. One of the great set designs is in the fun fair scene where Amelie goes into a ride and the look of it is truly superb. Costume designers Madeline Fontaine and Emma Lebail do a wonderful job in bringing the film's unique look in its clothing from the casual look that Amelie has to the coloring of the clothes that the character wear for the film’s picturesque look.

Special effects supervisor Yves Domenjoud and visual effects supervisor Alain Carsoux do a fantastic job with the film's small but delightful special effects for some of Amelie's appliances and one of Nino's pictures. Sound editors Marilena Cavola, Gerard Hardy, and Alexandre Widmer do a great job with the sound work to capture the atmosphere of Paris as well as the sense of adventure and whimsy that surrounds the film and its character.

The music by composer Yann Tiersen is truly whimsical but also one of the most memorable film scores in film. With the use of the accordion, the music captures the sense of romance and quirkiness that is Paris. Tiersen's music adds to the film's sense of humor and whimsy with the accordion playing speedily but also at times, serene and flutter. For its intense drama, it plays slowly with low notes as it captures the tension and drama of what Amelie is going through.

The casting by Pierre-Jacques Benichou, Valerie Espagne, and Alberte Garo is truly superb as it's filled with a numerous array of actors including several of Jeunet's regulars. Small performances from Isis Peyrade as one of Nino's colleagues from the porn shop, Eugene Berthier as the man whose pictures Nino has been collecting, Amaury Babault as the young Nino, and Ticky Holdago as the man in the photo who talks to Nino about Amelie. Other small but memorable performances from Claude Perron as Eva, Michel Robin and Andree Damant as Collignon's parents, and Maurice Benichou as Dominique Bretodeau are excellent. Flora Guiet is great as the young Amelie while Lorella Cravotta is also great as Amelie's nervous, neurotic mother. Urbain Cancelier is funny as the bullying Collignon who goes nuts due to Amelie's pranks while Yolande Moreau is brilliant as Amelie's landlady Madeleine who is still mourning over the death of her husband and the idea that he never loved her.

Artus de Penguern is good in his small role as a failed writer who observes everything that goes on in the coffee shop. Clotilde Mollet is also good as the flirtatious Gina who makes her ex-boyfriend Joseph jealous. Dominique Pinon is great as the cantankerous Joseph who realizes he has a crush on Georgette. Isabelle Nanty is excellent as the bothered, cranky Georgette who becomes aware that Joseph has a crush on her. Claire Maurier is superb as the coffee shop manager Suzanne who manages everything while is another observant of everything that goes on. Jamel Debbouze is amazing as the bullied Lucien, a man who has a great love for vegetables that he's mocked by Collignon while having a friend in Raymond Dufayel.

Rufus is great as Amelie's antisocial, taciturn father Raphael who, after his wife's death, has refused to go anywhere as his desires to turn her grave into a shrine is suddenly stopped when his gnome is taken and goes all over the world. Serge Merlin is brilliant as Raymond Dufayel, a man trying to recreate a Renoir painting as he observes everything that's around him while being a friend to both Amelie and Lucien as Merlin's performance is a huge standout. Mathieu Kassovitz is great as Nino, a dreamer who likes to collect torn photographs from a photo booth as he had his book lost and then found while being intrigued by Amelie, whom he sees from afar.

Finally, there's Audrey Tautou in her breakthrough role as the title character of Amelie. Tautou's charming, whimsical, and energetic performance is truly intoxicating to watch as is her smile. There’s a sense of spirit to everything she does while in moments where she's not speaking, there's so much life to her performance. When she's sad, she doesn't overdramatize herself or anything but remain subtle. It's a worldly performance from the French actress as she carries the film with such wonder and charisma whether she pretends to be Zorro, Tautou's performance is one of such charm and wit that it will make anyone want to fall in love with her.

Amelie is a colorful, whimsical, and charming masterpiece from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and company featuring a superb, spirited performance from Audrey Tautou. For audiences new to today's French cinema will no doubt place this film as one of the essential while it's also one of the best romantic films of the decade. For anyone new to Jeunet will consider this to be a great start to his film work while also makes a great introduction to the wonder that is Audrey Tautou. In the end, Amelie is one of those rare films that at first viewing, is the kind of film you tend to fall in love with.

(C) thevoid99 2011


Anonymous said...

I haven't really got anything to add. I just wanted to squee a bit. I really really love this movie. Just like you. Thanks for reminding me.

thevoid99 said...

I too love this film. I need to get the 2-disc set and all of Jeunet's films on DVD.

Lesya said...

Fantastic minute review. I really loved how narration was used in this film. And it's just beautiful. However, I remember I postponed watching it for like a year... I had a dvd but was afraid it was not to my liking.

thevoid99 said...

I was hesitant to see it because everyone talked about it so I waited a few years till it was on TV again. Once I was ready and saw it, I realized why people loved it so much.