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Bursting with imagination and having seen her share of tragedy and fantasy, Amélie is not like the other girls. When she grows up she becomes a waitress in a Montmartre bar run by a former dancer. Amelie enjoys simple pleasures until she discovers that her goal in life is to help others. To that end, she invents all sorts of tricks that allow her to intervene incognito into other people's lives, including an imbibing concierge and her hypochondriac neighbor. But Amélie's most difficult case turns out to be Nino Quicampoix, a lonely sex shop employee who collects photos abandoned at coin-operated photobooths.
For more about Amélie and the Amélie Blu-ray release, see Amélie Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 3, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Yolande Moreau, Artus de Penguern, Urbain Cancelier
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
» See full cast & crew
Amélie Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 3, 2008
Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain" a.k.a "Amelie" (2001) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Canadian distributors TVA Films. The supplemental features on the disc include various cast and crew interviews, featurettes; screen spoofs; and more. In French, without optional subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Somewhere in the Montmartre district of Paris. Amelie (Audrey Tautou) leads an uneventful life. Often times, she finds herself drawn back to the childhood fantasy world she once shared with her father.
While watching a news report about Princess Diana's death, Amelie drops a bottle cap which trickles down and cracks loose a small stone in a wall of her room. In the tiny hole she finds a rusty box with "treasures". Intrigued by her discovery, Amelie decides to track down the owner of the box and give it back to him. The man, an overworked Parisian who has long forgotten about his once precious box, is amused when a piece of his childhood reappears. And so is Amelie. She has finally found something that would give meaning to her life - bringing happiness into other people's lives.
An amazing feast of colorful images, brilliant camerawork and spectacular acting, Jean-Pierre Jenuet's Amelie took the world by storm in 2001. Strong early reviews, unprecedented interest from various distributors around the globe, and a much publicized scandal revolving around the film's exclusion from the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival proved to be exactly the type of promotion Jenuet and Co. needed. The rest, of course, is history - Amelie went on to become one of the greatest exports French cinema has produced.
So what was Amelie's secret? The short answer is perfection. The longer answer would be the unparalleled imagination of Jeunet whose flashy visuals infused with a strong dose of Gallic sentimentality proved too irresistible for the crowds. The endless panoramic vistas from Montmartre complimented by the soothing melodies of Yann Tiersen also added a special flavor that effectively transformed Amelie into one delicious bonbon of a film everyone wanted to taste.
Amelie also had a spectacular cast -- Mathieu Kassovitz, the controversial director of La Haine (1995) and star of Assassin(s) (1997); Jamel Debbouze, who after Amelie would appear in Luc Besson's Angel-A (2005) and Rachid Bouchareb's Oscar-nominated Days of Glory (2006); Dominique Pinon, who had already appeared in Jeunet and Caro's Delicatessen (1991); Yolande Moreau from Philippe Galland's Merci mon chien (1999).
Technically, Amelie impresses primarily with its innovative camerawork. Various overshots, fast zooms, and CGI effects are used to create a dreamy Paris where anything and everything is possible. Amelie's repetitive charming bursts of quiet anger, which always get replaced by unbridled joy and satisfaction, are also filmed with an appropriate sense of balance.
Lastly, film editor Hervé Schneid, who would go on to work with Tautou on A Very Long Engagement (2004), made sure that Amelie never went overboard with the various enhancements. From the charming chase scenes between Tautou and Kassovitz to L'autre Valse d'Amelie, the film's beautiful leitmotif, everything is stylishly balanced and polished to perfection.
Note: In 2002, Amelie won a number of different awards, including four Cesar Awards for Best Film, Best Director (Jean-Pierre Jeunet), Best Music Written for a Film (Yann Tiersen), and Best Production Design (Aline Bonetto); BAFTA Film Awards for Best Screenplay – Original (Guillaume Laurant and Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and Best Production Design; and the Audience Choice Award at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Amélie Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and encoded with MPEG-4 AVC Amelie has received its first HD treatment via Canadian distrubs TVA Films. This is their first BD release (together with the Canadian Oscar entry C.R.A.Z.Y) for which the expectations were certainly high. After all Amelie boasts dazzling visuals which many, this reviewer included, believe should look absolutely amazing in 1080p if treated right. So, how does this Canadian release look?
Acceptable but not good is the short answer. The transfer is encoded in 1080i and not in 1080p. Hence you will immediately notice that during fast motion scenes (and as we all know Amelie has plenty of them) there is a notable amount of judder. In fact, there are scenes where the effect is equivalent to what you would notice on an improper PAL-NTSC standard-def conversion. On the other hand, greens and yellows, the Amelie's marquee foundation for the beautiful CGI effects, are rendered quite nicely. They are certainly livelier and with better depth than what previous SDVD releases of the film reveal. Yet, they definitely lack the image smoothness and lush definition 1080p offers. Blacks are good but also lacking the convincing saturation one would expect from a strong HD transfer. Contrast on the other hand varries from average to good with daylight scenes being more impressive than nighttime footage. To sum it all up Amelie has not been treated in the manner many expected and I certainly think that a solid 1080p transfer would reveal quite a different picture.
Amélie Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Since Amelie is yet to be even announced in the US this Canadian release was expected by many who desire an HD presentation of the film. The preliminary info that I had indicated that there would be English and French subtitles for the main feature. Unfortunately, the disc does not offer any subtitles at all so obviously there was a miscommunication error somewhere. What you would find on this disc are two tracks: French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1. I played primarily with the Dolby TrueHD mix and, yes, it is potent, complimenting the main feature quite nicely. In fact, there is notable difference between what Miramax provided on the US DVD and what I heard on the BD. There is plenty of depth and surround effects that will definitely turn your head. The Montmartre theme that follows Amelie when she does her trips to the photo booth for example is excellent. Finally, there are absolutely no cracks, hissing, or drop-outs that I could detect so you should enjoy the presentation without worrying about audio deficiencies. (Note: I am unsure why but there isn't a separate menu for the audio options. When the disc loads you will be taken straight to a generic menu where all of the extras are listed next to the Play option for the main feature. If you wish to adjust the audio you will have to use the pop-up key on your remote).
Amélie Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are quite a few extras on this disc (and for the record they are not subbed in English either). First is Les essays des comediens, a collage of raw screen tests where the cast of Amelie are seen and heard practicing specific scenes from the film. Next is Presentation a l'iuf – la tournage de l'equipe du film - an interview with Audrey Tautou, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Jamel Debbouze after a local premiere of the film. Next is Entrevue avec Jean-Pierre Jeunet where the director of Amelie talks about his film, the script, how it was received, and how it was made possible. A standard Making of is also included on this disc with plenty of footage from the shooting. Finally Les Fantasies d'Audrey Tautou offers a hilarious set of screen spoofs where the charming actress is seen struggling with her lines.
Amélie Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I am incredibly happy to see Canadian distribs TVA-Quebec enter the HD market. The more small and independent companies begin releasing on Blu-ray, the greater the variety of films would be. I am certainly looking forward to their future output and will do my best to raise awareness within our community so that their films get the proper attention.
TVA's first BD release will more than likely disappoint quite a few English-speakers who were hoping to add Amelie to their collections. As reflected in the audio description, unfortunately, you will have to wait a bit more until Miramax or another distributor offers an English-friendly version of this beautiful film. The video treatment, however, is also somewhat alarming. The fact that Amelie was granted a 1080i transfer as opposed to a 1080p transfer presents all sorts of issues, and frankly these are very noticeable on this disc. In other words, a different treatment is needed. Still, I would like to encourage you to be patient and understanding of the Canadian company's first steps into Blu- ray waters. Every beginning is difficult, and I have a good reason to believe that there will be plenty of great release to choose from in the near future.
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