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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 Jeffrey Kauffman on July 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 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
A fabulous destiny indeed.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 15, 2011
One of my favorite all-time commentary moments was provided by the ever colorful Ron Perlman on his commentary track for the decidedly odd film City of Lost Children, one of a number of wonderful collaborations by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Perlman starts his commentary on the film out by saying something along the lines of, "This is the extremely peculiar opening of City of Lost Children. . .which is followed by the extremely peculiar middle section and then the extremely peculiar ending." As off the cuff hilarious as that comment is, it in its own way aptly sums up the really unique world of Caro-Jeunet films, films which include such disparate fare as the cult hit Delicatessen and the multiplex sensation Alien Resurrection (actually solely directed by Jeunet, but featuring some production design help from Caro). Jeunet's very distinctive flair for both story and directorial ebullience is also fully on display in the incredibly charming, and just as incredible odd, Amélie, a film which rather unexpectedly became an international attraction of rather gigantic proportions, ultimately garnering five Academy Award nominations. As with most Jeunet (or Jeunet-Caro) films, Amélie is a completely quirky outing that combines a completely inventive and captivating production design with a decidedly anti-Hollywood approach to a standard three act, overly structured storyline. Like its breakout star Audrey Tatou, Amélie is full of charm and a sort of innocent sex appeal, idiosyncratic and singularly eccentric and even more than a little bit odd at times.
Jeunet's abject refusal to follow accepted filmic norms is evident right off the bat with Amélie. We're given a number of brief snippets of events happening at the same time, seemingly without any real connection to each other save for their simultaneity, one of which includes the conception of Amelie herself. A timelapse montage of Amélie's mother's growing pregnant belly leads to a brief scene of Amélie being born, and we get the title sequence (and it's instructive to note that the original French title of the film is the perhaps more descriptive The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain). And then, for virtually the next fifteen minutes, we are greeted with a narrated sequence which gives us Amelie's background while also introducing us to a number of other supporting characters. This opening gambit is odd in and of itself, but its most fascinating characteristic is that despite being narrated, we don't feel especially removed from Amélie or indeed the many other characters introduced in this sequence. We're thrust headlong into the weird and wonderful world of Amélie, a girl who by fate or circumstance is isolated from the world and especially from other children and who learns to exist within the rather spacious confines of her imagination.
And then, about three quarters of the way through this opening narrated segment, a bizarre, seemingly random, event occurs (and seemingly random events are sprinkled into Amélie like fine garnishes offered at the best French restaurants). Amélie, now a young woman working as a waitress at a Montmartre café, is getting ready for bed in the evening in her bathroom when she overhears a news report on the television in the other room announcing the death of Princess Diana. In shock, Amélie drops a bottle cap which rolls and loosens a baseboard tile. Curious, Amélie crawls over and pulls the tile away, revealing a treasure box secreted some 40 years previously by a little boy who had lived in the same apartment. Within a short span of time, she resolves to find the boy (now obviously a middle-aged man) who had put the box there and to return it to him. If he responds well to the reuniting, she'll dedicate her life to good deeds. If he doesn't, she'll chalk the whole event up to the vagaries of chance and go on her semi-merry way.
To say more about the meandering plot of Amélie, a plot which twists and turns like one of the zig-zagging alleyways of Montmartre itself, would be unfair to anyone who hasn't yet come under the spell of this singular and very unique film. Suffice it to say that Jeunet consistently defies expectations while never completely scuttling an emotional resonance that makes the character of Amélie easily understandable and more than anything incredibly sympathetic. Amélie is a film with an almost overwhelming amount of heart, but it's never treacly and instead tends toward a sort of arch humor, albeit one never laced with cynicism or irony.
The term gamine seems destined to be preternaturally linked to women named Audrey. For a prior generation, Audrey Hepburn was the ultimate gamine, but it may turn out that Audrey Tatou eclipses Hepburn herself in terms of the doe-eyed innocence and sweetly vulnerable naïvete most often associated with the term. Though Amélie was evidently originally written with Emily Watson in mind for its title role, it was an incredible stroke of luck that Tatou ended up in the role, for rarely if ever have an actress and a role been so perfectly married. Tatou's unbelievably expressive face and her almost mime-like ability to depict emotional states with little or no dialogue helps to create the very real sense of magic which imbues Amelie with much of its luster.
Amélie is easily one of the downright sweetest films to come down the pike over the past several years, but the wonderful news is that it manages to maintain its own sense of the fantastic at virtually every turn without ever seeming overly fake. Jeunet's inerrant sense of hyperrealism merged with surrealism and just out right magical realism makes Amelie a completely idiosyncratic experience that is literally incomparable. It may in the inimitable words of Ron Perlman be "extremely peculiar," but it's the sort of absolutely original concoction that is too often lacking in the modern world of cinema.
Amélie Blu-ray, Video Quality
Amélie is one of the most gorgeous films in recent memory, and the good news is this new AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1 finally reproduces the film's absolutely lush and luscious cinematography largely to a tee. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel received a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for his sun drenched work here, a series of images which is absolutely bathed in golden tones that are somehow utterly redolent of the French soul. The image here is beautifully sharp and extremely well detailed. For example, on the SD-DVD I had frankly never even noticed the small stream of water flowing in the lower left side of the screen in the film's opening shot detailing the life of the blue fly. But over and over again fine detail is staggering in this release, and the brilliant palette is both robust and wonderfully well saturated. Digital post was still a relatively new phenomenon when this film was released and then migrated to DVD, and Jeunet goes into some detail in the commentary about how various scenes were digitally pushed toward the green end of the spectrum for example, but this Blu-ray offers all of that artificiality with really nuanced detail. Amélie has had a somewhat spotty release history on some international Blu-rays, but Lionsgate has done a stellar job on this first domestic release.
Amélie Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Amélie is presented with only its original French language track, offered here in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, but that's nothing to sneeze at. This is a wonderfully realized and brilliantly reproduced track that is both boisterous and very subtle at times. Surround activity is fairly consistent, especially in the use of ambient noises and Jeunet's often very funny use of weird sound effects (listen to the completely inexplicable sound when Amélie removes the garden gnome from its perch in her father's garden for a good example). Dialogue is clean and well presented, as is the opening narration, and the charming score sounds better than ever.
Amélie Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Amélie Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I hadn't yet seen Delicatessen when I stumbled on City of Lost Children in a video store and picked it up simply because the cover was kind of cool. I instantly fell in love with that movie and have been a confirmed Jeunet (and Jeunet-Caro) fan ever since. This is a director who doesn't make any bones about having a completely unique and idiosyncratic vision, and he brings such overwhelming amounts of whimsy and invention to his films that it can be daunting at times. It's all the more amazing, then, that Amélie is so quietly effective and easily entertaining. This is a film which almost incessantly pushes stylistic bounds in an exuberant manner, but which never loses sight of the fragile girl at the center of its story. There's a subplot concerning cloning in City of Lost Children, but when you see a film of Amélie genius and innovation, you can't help but wish Jeunet could clone himself so that we'd have more of his wonderful films to enjoy. This is an excellent Blu-ray release of a formidably original film, and it easily comes Highly recommended.
Amélie: Other Editions
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