It would take the prose of a Shakespeare or Dickens to properly express the magic contained within “Amelie from Montmarte.” I am not a wordsmith worthy of capturing this film’s spirit while also trying to pay it an appropriate tribute. But I am going to try. I don’t know if I have the necessary vocabulary to describe it well enough. Wait a minute; let me find my thesaurus… okay here we go. ^ “Amelie” ^ Synonyms: enchanting, alluring, bewitching, captivating, charming, inventive, fascinating, seductive, delectable, beguiling, enthralling, delightful, intriguing, joyous.
I really want to stress that last word; joyous. This is a film that will put a goofy grin on your face from the opening frame, through to the credits, out into the lobby, the whole way home, and possibly even till you fall asleep. I’m smiling now, simply because I’m thinking about it.
The film’s bewitching begins with one of the most inventive opening scenes ever. Via narration we are introduced to the fascinating characters that define Amelie’s life. Nothing too fresh there. It is the captivating traits the characters possess that make it so devilishly clever. We are invited into their minds by observing their “likes” and “dislikes”. Every single one of these simplistic quirks will have you cracking up. No detail about a person is too small or trivial. And THAT is the enchanting idea behind the film. Nothing in life should be too small or trivial to go unnoticed or unappreciated. The tiniest things can summon happiness.
A pair of unloving parents raise Amelie. She is not their daughter, more of a product to be made, finished and shipped off. Through an intriguing twist of fate she is trapped in her home, forced to learn about life all by herself. Being constantly alone she must invent her own friends and fun. She is a delightfully bright and clever girl with an old soul, who enjoys every moment of her condensed life.
Now grown-up and out on her own, not much has changed. Still alone, Amelie lives her life neatly contained in her own little bubble. Watching the seductive soap opera of life around her, she is perpetually amused. The delectable characters of her building and job drift in and out of her world hardly leaving a trace. She is content with it all.
That is until she finds the life changing, 2nd Act starting, item hidden within her bathroom wall, the treasure box of a boy fifty years removed from her apartment. Deciding to return the box to its original owner, she starts the enthralling journey towards her destiny. It is the story of finding her truelove through fate and coincidences. The world opens up to her and she discovers the people and things in life that make it so wonderful to live. The ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Now this may sound schmaltzy and sappy, like some sort of Chris Columbus – Robin Williams collaboration. However, the film simply works because of the genius way the story is told.
“Amelie” is written and directed to perfection by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. He is half of the filmmaking team behind the two gems; “Delicatessen” and “City of Lost Children”, and returning from a disastrous foray into Hollywood movies; Alien: Resurrection. Jeunet fills every single frame with incomprehensible beauty. Any moment from the film is a picture worthy of hanging in a museum.
Jeunet also found a flawless lead actress in the alluring Audrey Tautou. Because of her, you will absolutely fall in love with Amelie. Audrey’s facial and eye expressions alone are worthy of Oscar gold. Not enough can be said about her astonishing performance. Jeunet surrounds her with a sound, charming supporting cast. Including the wonderful Dominique Pinon that you will recognize from Jeunet’s previous films.
While also being a more appealing title, the film is much better described by its French title; “The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain”. I’m not sure why Miramax decided to change it for American audiences. Thankfully, they at least brought it to us. I would hate to think of this film languishing in Europe. This film deserves to be seen by the widest audience possible.
“Amelie from Montmarte” is perhaps the best romantic-comedy ever created. It is so powerful of a film, that after leaving the theater you may not see the world in the same light. It will give you the kind of feeling that you wish you could bottle up and carry with you for the rest of your days. So go experience the kind of film magic that doesn’t come along very often. I can not sing its praises high enough. I can only hope that you feel the same way. We can all use a little magic in our lives.