When discussing Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, it’s hard not to use cliché terms like “whimsical" because it is just that-- but in a very unexpected, un-cliché way.
The French film follows Amélie (Audrey Tautou), an emotionally isolated young woman who works in a small bar in Montmartre. After finding a box of childhood trinkets hidden in her apartment and reuniting the box with the now middle aged owner, Amélie is overcome by a newfound desire to help those around her and to create a memorable life for herself and others. Yet while helping others, Amélie loses sight of the importance of pleasing herself, particularly in regards to her muddled romantic efforts to pursue Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz), a loner in his own right who works at a sex shop.
One of the many aspects of the film that I find to be appealing is the complexities of it. When most people think of Parisian life, they assume it to be softer and slower than anywhere else, but Amélie's life is just as chaotic, if not more, than any other young woman's life. What makes Amélie’s life different, however, is how her imagination and empathy (results of a lonely childhood) take control of and often influence her actions and how she solves problems.
In regards to the film’s incorporation of the imaginative, it is worth noting the film's breaking of the fourth wall, but particularly in the way it's done. The narrator, for one, speaks directly to the audience, but there are also quick moments in which characters will speak directly to the audience or look (or even smile) into the camera. It feels less like breaking and more like tapping on the fourth wall.
Another notable aspect of the film is the beauty of the dialogue, or sometimes the lack of. It's important that any watcher know that, as mentioned, the film is French and therefore in French. So unless you're fluent, you'll need subtitles-- but after the first few scenes you'll be so enchanted by the story you will forget you're even reading. There is also a good chunk of scenes in which there is little to no dialogue, but the actors convey the unspoken dialogue clearly, with their expressive movements that make even the most complex of feelings evident. Considering the obscurity of the plot and the characters respectively, each conversation is so strange and unexpected.
An interaction that particularly sticks with me is between Nino and the man in a photo which Amélie gives to him. Nino's imagination taking a hold of him as he questions the man in the picture as to who the mysterious girl (Amélie) is and what she wants from him. The man beckons to Nino: “No, you dope! She’s in love!” “I don’t even know her,” replies Nino. “You do!" urges the photo. “Since when?” “Since always. In your dreams.”
As for the visuals of the film, I really take my hat off to Bruno Delbonnel-- the cinematography depicts Paris as beautiful and quirky as it is and as one would hope it'd be. The film makes use of a lot of camera movement and skewed angles to help convey the energy and excitement within the film. There is also a sort of yellow tint to the picture that gives off an aged but warm feeling, once again adding to the appeal and nostalgia of the work.
Amélie is no doubt a film for the hopeless romantic, the child-at-heart, and just about anyone else who wants to smile.
text: lydia velazquez