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    French confection

    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.


    I have seen the Best Foreign Language Film of the year and it is called "Am四ie."

    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
    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 warranted.

    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

    Reader comments on Amelie:

  • Amelie   from Kristine, Jan 2, 2002
  • Amelie   from Warren Beats, Feb 13, 2002
  • I am very happy   from Olivier, Mar 7, 2002
  • Re: I am very happy   from Bridget, Mar 21, 2002
  • sweet movie   from smea, Mar 20, 2002
  • Yes!   from sachi, Jan 30, 2003
  • Amelie je t'aime   from Chris, May 12, 2002
  • Amelie forever,   from Passing.., May 14, 2002
  • the music is uninteressting   from frenchgirl, Jun 30, 2002
  • resurrection of fantasy   from Eva, Oct 7, 2002
  • Re: resurrection of fantasy   from kris, Oct 10, 2002
  • un film vraiment fabuleux et 士ouvant   from Jason, Oct 25, 2002
  • absolutely wonderful   from GRW, Nov 4, 2002
  • the best movie I've ever seen!   from irina, Nov 21, 2002
  • Le film   from JF Chirat, Nov 26, 2002
  • Re: Le film   from sexyyear11student, Nov 27, 2002
  • movie   from alice joh, Feb 13, 2003
  • French Foreign movie   from Alice joh, Feb 14, 2003
  • Re: French Foreign movie   from Lisa, Mar 15, 2003
  • Re: French Foreign movie   from chp, Jan 25, 2004
  • [no subject]   from MATT, Jul 22, 2003
  • HELP!   from amelieamelie, May 27, 2004
  • beautifull   from karin, Jun 30, 2004
  • WOW   from james morgan, Oct 2, 2004
  • j'adore Amelie's world   from Eliema, Feb 2, 2005
  • Amelie avec Englais??   from Mac Marks, Feb 3, 2005
  • Best and most touching movie ever.   from Marco, Mar 1, 2005
  • amelie   from saumya, Apr 4, 2005
  • Magnifique   from Pauline, Jan 28, 2006
  • [no subject]   from Emily, Jun 2, 2007

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