A lovely fantasy realm created by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, saturated with vibrance and optimism, has a charming sprite leading us on a tour around it through her perspective that sees different from many others. A fantastic performance by Audrey Tautou and technical excellence in cinematography, editing, and art direction, Amelie is a cinematic wonder. The pure at heart will view this film as a really sweet lollipop that kids swear by for simple bliss, in hope that the complicated adults (who'd typically see it as a childish cause for diabetes) will someday understand and change our world into the one that Amelie strolls about as a carefree being.
The City of Lights sparkles in this "delightful and original" (Boston Globe) quirky comedy that garnered five Academy Award nominations. At a tiny Parisian cafe, the adorable yet painfully shy Amelie accidentally discovers a gift for helping others. Soon Amelie is spending her days as a Cupid, guardian angel and all-around do-gooder. But when she bumps into a handsome stranger, will she find the courage to become the star of her very own love story? Audrey Tautou (The Da Vinci Code) shines in this "lighthearted fantasy" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) that stole the hearts of audiences and critics worldwide.
Jeunet's film is a total change away from his previous endeavours, especially from his Hollywood attempt at Alien: Resurrection.
Amelie is set in a Paris that can never manifest in the world we live in today. Yes, it's a fantasy realm that is flooded with pop vibrancy and an overwhelming sense of feel-good. Likely to be one that we used to fall in love with when we're still enjoying our childhood.
Elaborating further, the Paris that Amelie treads upon is also like the one that we know of - filled with adult emotions and desires. There's an interesting montage sequence of 15 random orgasms edited superbly together that forms a visual response to Amelie's opening question about the world out there she is unfamiliar with.
Yes, the film isn't shy about such themes and fits comfortably in this fantasy comedy.
It appears that Jeunet believes our world can be further simplified and be evolved into one similar to what he's created in this film. In Amelie, we see how the nasty neighbourhood grocery stall owner is a very bad person who always put down others with heavy dosages of sarcasm, the eternally jealous ex boyfriend continues to stalk the lady in a cafe she works in without fail, some adults lie to children just to make them feel bad about the things they do.
These aren't strange to our society we live in, are they?
Many are quoted on how they feel Jeunet's Paris is only possible in the movies as something for us to escape to with a box office ticket and highly dismiss it as a serious piece of cinema. This light-hearted romance comedy might have handled many adult issues casually, but its true intention is to relay to the audience how we should indulge in the small things in life for bliss.
We don't often find raw happiness in our society, but maybe we are overly complicating things.
In the opening chapter, which in my opinion is simply an amazing showcase of wonderful art direction, cinematography, editing, cast performance, and writing meshed in one. The film brisk walks and never stop to look back or clarify, dotted with so much details that find us often silently nodding in agreement the small references in life that we've often missed. The pillow crease marks on our cheeks when we wake up in the morning, the sensation of our hands dipping into a bag of textured grain, and how some people love to empty their bags out before putting every item back piece by piece.
These are daily life details that many films often overlooked and try to dive into overly-complicated plot with implausible ones. Speaking of plot, there isn't any in Amelie. Well, there is an abstract one with a general story arc of Amelie's life and how she fulfills her destiny to become someone who is obsessed with doing good for others around her. Things are simple in Amelie, the plot devices that drive the film on are similarly so.
That's how it is when we were kids. We find any purpose/intention, we dive straight into it.
Of course, being the witty petite young lady Amelie has proven to be a delight to the audience, she ends up trying to over-complicate matters towards the end that conclude in her rare sorrows she feature on her adorable face. It further strengthens the theme message about consequences of being too playful and trying too hard. Jeunet wants us to let go and follow our heart, it's really simple to welcome and embrace bliss.
Audrey Tautou as the charming Amelie Poulain resembles a competent mime performer or a silent era movie star, who is able to relay firm emotions through her demeanour without verbals. She speaks in the film, but what really captivates us is her body language. Simply by a look and we know what she's thinking and experiencing, yet another message by Jeunet to encourage us to simply skin our feelings and less the need for excessive words.
The camerawork is very smooth and elegant with quite a fair bit of inspiring camera motion, with luscious lighting to pair with to offer us good cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel. The alluring art direction cannot escape any eyes that laid upon Volker Schäfer's visual canvas of production design. The pace of the film is brisk but not senselessly fast so that we get to digest every bit of details, thanks to the wonderful editing by Hervé Schneid and the beautiful screenplay by Guillaume Laurant and Jeunet.
This isn't just Jeunet and Tautou's best moment in their respective careers, but also one of the finest moment in contemporary cinema where I find a lot of inspiring revelation of bliss.