"La Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain"
(In French with English subtitles)
122m minutes | Rated: R
NY/LA: Friday, November 2, 2001
Limited: Friday, November 9, 2001
Expanding: December 2001
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Yolande Moreau, Arthus De Penguern, Urbain Cancellier, Dominique Pinon, Mauriece Benichou, Ticky Holgado, Isabelle Nanty, Claire Maurier, Clotilde Mollet
This film is #1 on the Best of 2001 list.
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 15%|
LETTERBOX: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
This film would be enchanting and engrossing under any circumstances. But it's such an amazing, detailed and complete vision of characters and the fantasy Paris in which it takes place that it deserves your undivided attention. Get it in widescreen, watch with the lights turned down and curled up on the couch.
VIDEO RELEASE: 07.16.2002
Jeunet includes on Disc 2 a 20-minute personal introduction about the making of the film, which is interesting if for no other reason than that he's just set up a video camera in his office and started talking (at the end he shows letters he's received in response to the film). His commentary track is fascinating from beginning to end, especially for Jeunet fans. The writer-director talks in detail about his inspirations for some of the episodes in the story and pulls the curtain back on some of the cine-magic. Sometimes he simply sits in awe of Audrey Tautou. Other times he grouses amusingly about how bad her hair looked during the first week of shooting or laughs about how hard it was to create his idyllic fantasy Paris. All the while, he's enjoying the film right along with you. Keeps saying, "This is my favorite scene." "No, no. This is my favorite scene!" One small problem: There are a few translation errors in the subtitles, the worst of which is in the scene that shows Amelie returning the photobook to Nino. When she calls him on the pay phone and tells him to look on Page 51, the subtitles say "Page St." instead.|
OTHER NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
Tons of stuff! Screen tests. Wonderful 10-minute "home movie" of off-the-wall behind-the-scenes stuff, like raw footage of the orgasm scenes and the parade of people getting their photos taken for Nino's photo booth scrapbook. Q&A w/Jeunet from L.A. screening in Jan. 2002. Another short Q&A w/Jeunet & cast members. US & French trailers & TV spots.
2.35:1 ratio; Dolby 5.1
SUBS: English, Spanish
DVD RATING: ****
Ambrosial 'Amélie' the magical fable of a shy Parisian beauty bringing joy to others and romance to herself
A fairytale-like virtue and curiosity shines from the heart-shaped face and saucer-of-milk eyes of star Audrey Tautou in the delicious, spellbinding French confection d'cinema entitled "Amélie."
Embodying with childlike ebullience the vulnerability and the enormous heart of the title character -- a young, beautiful, nervous little bird emerging from a sheltered childhood by moving alone to a quaint corner of Paris -- Tautou makes you believe in the fanciful acts of self-made magic that Amélie invents to ease herself into a bigger world.
Misdiagnosed with a heart condition as a little girl, she was kept at home and grew up without playmates. Now finding it difficult to relate to people in normal ways, the coy ingenue resolves to become an anonymous Good Samaritan after stumbling upon a tin full of toys from the 1950s hidden in her apartment.
Amélie concocts an plan to reunite the toys with their former owner. Finding the man -- a graying, wearied soul -- she puts the tin in a phone booth on a route he walks daily, then rings the phone as he passes by, watching from afar in bashful excitement as a life is magically reinvigorated before her eyes.
Hooked on the sweet sensation of altruism, she sets about making magic elsewhere. Amélie sparks romance between a co-worker and a customer at the café where she waits tables. She filches old love letters from her lonely landlady, then employs the alchemy of scissors, a Xerox machine and tea (making the paper look aged) to create a "long lost" post from the woman's dead husband. She plays devilish tricks on a cruel grocer who picks on his retarded stock boy.
And then she falls in love -- from afar, of course -- and begins formulating an elaborate, enchanting ploy to compel the equally offbeat monsieur to seek her out.
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a virtuoso at creating alternative worlds in darker films like "Delicatessen" and "City of Lost Children," this delight of whimsical wonderment is a feat of light-hearted genius.
A filmmaker devoted to flourishing his pictures with the kind of vivid details that absolutely envelop an audience in atmosphere, Jeunet plies "Amélie" with an abundance of ambrosial peculiarities. In the film's opening scenes, our heroine's history flies at the screen in a flurry of captivating anecdotal narration. We learn of her unaffectionate father and her harried mother. We learn she likes skipping stones on the calm water of a canal near her apartment. We learn of her incredible imagination and witness parts of the fantasy world she conceived as a child.
Some such details grow into character-defining moments, as when Amélie, in good deed mode, walks a blind man across a busy street. She decides to make his day by briskly navigating him down the whole block, describing with rapid relish everything she can along the way -- what people are wearing, prices of fruit at a market, a baby watching a dog watching chicken rotisserie in a shop window.
It is just this flood of flavorful minutiae that drives the story and makes this movie such an exquisite joy.
Amélie first encounters Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), the curious man who becomes the object of her fancy, as he is rummaging under a train station photo booth (the kind that spit out strips of four snapshots) for pictures discarded by strangers. Similarly shy, Nino relates to people through a scrapbook of these forgotten photos, which by chance lands in Amélie's hands, inspiring her to leave him a series of enigmatic self-portraits as a lure for his love. In the process she helps Nino solve the mystery of a strange man whose photos he finds discarded at every booth in Paris.
I could honestly write a 5,000-word essay exalting the extraordinary pleasures of this surreal romantic fable of captivating coincidence and manufactured magic. But this is not the format for such musings and I wouldn't want to spoil any more of the movie than is necessary in writing a review. Suffice it to say, "Amélie" is without question the best movie I've seen in five years.
A quick note about the largely undeserved "R" rating: It's only for a brief shot of breasts and an innocuous scene that happens to take place in a sex shop. If the MPAA judged on content instead of bean-counting incidental nudity, "Amélie" would be PG-13.