Sweet and offbeat, the French romantic comedy "Amelie" with a charmingly playful performance by Audrey Tautou is one of the best, most imaginative films of the year.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
I have seen the Best Foreign Language Film of the year and it is called "Am四ie."
It might actually be the Best Picture of the year, but a couple of films
(namely "Memento" and "Sexy Beast") might have something to say about that.
"Le Fabuleux Destin d'Am四ie Poulain" ("The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie
Poulain"), to give the film its full title, is precisely that: fabulous.
The Oscar buzz on this delightful French fancy is already way out there
and this time (unlike Miramax's last Oscar push, the syrupy sweet and
undeserving "Chocolat," a slight confection by anybody's standards) it's
|Original title: Le Fabuleux Destin d'Am四ie Poulain.|
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Written by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant.
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Claire Maurier, Isabelle Nanty, Dominique Pinon, Serge Merlin, Jamel Debbouze, Yolande Moreau, Urbain Cancellier.
In French with English subtitles.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Playful, surreal, and highly imaginative, "Am四ie" is just what the doctor
ordered, a cinematic delight that couldn't have come at a better time. It
seems petty not to give "Am四ie" its full complement of stars (i.e., four
out of four) but the film does tend to flag a little towards the end and
might have been tightened up some in the third act. That is not, however,
going to prevent me from wholeheartedly recommending it, adding that you're
unlikely to see a more creative or charming film this year.
With breakneck speed and dreamlike ingenuity, the film introduces us to
Amelie literally fresh from the womb. With a spectacular voiceover
(courtesy Andre Dussollier), writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet brilliantly
summarizes Am四ie's childhood her likes and dislikes, the people and
places around her, the tragic death of her mother in a style that can best
be described as Peter Greenaway meets Barry Sonnenfeld (an obsession with
facts and seemingly inconsequential details powered by rapid-fire
camerawork). The narration is so effective, in fact, that you can easily
imagine this film running its 120-minute course solely on the strength of it.
The grown Am四ie (played to wide-eyed perfection by the elfin Audrey
Tautou), now a waitress in a little Montmartre cafe called The Two
Windmills, discovers a small box of childhood trinkets hidden behind her
bathroom wall and vows to find its owner. The success of this venture, how
it magically transforms the recipient, subsequently inspires the young
woman to help others, anonymously influencing and altering their lives (she
guides a blind man across a busy street, describing everything around her
in precise and offbeat detail the price of ham, a child looking at a dog
looking at a roasting chicken, a man handing out melon slices). Finally,
Am四ie turns her own mischievous stratagems on herself, pursuing a
mysterious man (Mathieu Kassovitz) who keeps a scrapbook of torn and
discarded passport photographs.
In keeping with his fantastic and pop-eyed vision ("Alien: Resurrection"
excluded; I'm talking the director's domestic works here), Jeunet populates
his film with a splendid array of colorful characters, from the patrons of
The Two Windmills to the women behind the bar, from the brittle-boned
painter (who has committed to canvas the very same Renoir every year for 20
years) to the loutish fruit-and-vegetable seller who gets his just
desserts, from the stone skipping to the globe-trotting garden gnome (true
story, or urban myth?).
The film zips along to Yann Tiersen's giddy accordion strains and there's
whimsy to be had just about everywhere. This is a film to treasure and
relish, to rewind and revisit at every opportunity. With all of the
unsettling events going on in the world right now, it's nice to have
something, someone like the fanciful Amelie, to finally make us smile.
|NOVEMBER 19, 2001|
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Reader comments on Amelie:
Amelie from Kristine, Jan 2, 2002
Amelie from Warren Beats, Feb 13, 2002
Yes! from sachi, Jan 30, 2003
Le film from JF Chirat, Nov 26, 2002
movie from alice joh, Feb 13, 2003
HELP! from amelieamelie, May 27, 2004
WOW from james morgan, Oct 2, 2004
amelie from saumya, Apr 4, 2005
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