Once Upon A Time, There Was Amelie....

Aug 5, 2002 (Updated Aug 7, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Audrey Tautou, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, comic greatness.

Cons:Long - but I didn't care.

The Bottom Line: Every once in a while a foreign film comes out that shows just how sad we American's make them.


Why you should not see Amelie. It’s French with English subtitles, it’s a love story, and it’s over two hours long. Okay so I’m lying, about the “not” part – but I got your attention, didn’t I?

Honestly, I find it extremely hard to review this movie – the best ones are always the hardest to review. It makes it harder from a reviewers perspective when the movie in question is in a foreign language since there always remains a slight hinder-ship in not only the mere fact that you have to read subtitles and then look up at the action but also because there is always a chance that the translation you read is not completely accurate. Case in point, my finance who knows a little French caught a few times where words were said but stated incorrectly in the sub-titles. It is those little things that make it even harder to review – even if the movie is still stuck in your head days after viewing it.

Amelie is basically a French version of Alley McBeal minus the pouty lips. There are a few scenes where we visually see Amelie’s thoughts including her melting into a puddle of water at the sight of a male hottie Nino/Mathieu Kassovitz. Amelie also loves and finds pleasure in helping others – but nothing as simple as helping a blind man cross the street – no, she helps him out and vividly explains the various images of the world around him that he may have only dreamed about. Through her, he can experience them.

That’s the course Amelie as a movie takes. One fateful day she drops a bottle cap and finds a box full of one young child’s possessions. She decides to find the child who is now a man and return his possessions to him. Once the possessions are returned to him the man basically breaks down and concludes that an angel must have delivered this package to him. With that positive reinforcement, Amelie sets out to help others; a man with brittle bones, her father Raphaël/Rufas, the aforementioned blind man – and even herself as she sets her eyes and heart on Nino who collections pictures from underneath those cheap photo booths one sees in the strangest of places.

The true beauty of Amelie lies in the methodical and almost sinister, yet child-like creative ways Amelie brings about change to others and herself. The film is presented almost in a cartoon-like way with bright colors that never fade and various cut scenes that quickly sum up all the various story points in a matter of a few seconds instead of dwelling on each point until boredom sets in. And, even though Amelie as a person may have everything planned out from beginning to end we experience her thoughts throughout time thus not to spoil the entire gift of experience and entertainment.

In terms of laugher – Amelie is very funny if you are willing to pay close attention. The jokes are slowly set up and the punch lines are only caught by those who have been paying close attention. There’s a particular long-running inside joke surrounding a particular gnome that if I myself had been paying really close attention to, I would have seen the punch-line coming way before it was actually delivered.

And even in the end, when the movie slows down to a snails pace and we know the movie is about to end – we still can’t take our eyes off the screen.

This ability is further defined by Audrey Tautou’s amazing ability to be both sweet and simple yet complex all at the same time. A paper could be written on her performance entirely – and more than enough reason to watch Amelie at least two times through.

Some may point out that Amelie causes aggravation and frustration in them because she plans out and plays out her emotions instead of just being upfront with them. But that’s the beauty of life and more so of the cinema. One could boil down the entire movie of Amelie and condense it into about a 30 minute movie-short – but to do so would destroy much of the magic that has entranced so many viewers to this film.

The second DVD of Amelie contains additional features including a commentary in English where Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet describes each shot vividly. It is clear that he has thought every scene out – the foreground and background, and how each scene flows not only within one scene but also in the entire movie. He describes how the ending “kiss” was tested in hopes that audiences wouldn’t laugh at it – and he reports that many didn’t even breathe because they were too mesmerized.

And that’s basically the heart of Amelie. It is an enchanting movie. Almost Cinderella like. For 2 hours we put on magic slippers and get to experience a movie that will make our imaginations run wild. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend 2 hours – except perhaps with my own princess charming.

If you enjoyed Amelie and even if you didn’t – I highly recommend you check out Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s previous feature Delicatessen(1991). While watching Amelie I couldn’t help but think of Delicatessen and then was pleasantly surprised later on when I learned that both movies were in fact the work of the same man.


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