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aka - Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le
France 2001
Directed by
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
122 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Drew Arthurson
4 stars


Synopsis: Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) is a shy, young woman working in a café and renting an apartment nearby. As a child she was mistakenly diagnosed, by her physician father, as having an irregular heart and as a result was educated at home. Her mother passed away soon after and Amelie, without any schoolmates to play with, created her own rich and exciting fantasy landscape to exist within. Cut to present day and Amelie has settled in Montmartre, content but lonely. Her life is altered, however, with the discovery of an old box of childhood treasures in her apartment. After the box is returned to its owner Amelie realises she has the ability to change and influence the lives of those around her. All the while Amelie seeks out the man of her dreams, Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz). Nino's a handsome loner who works as a part-time cashier at the "Palace Video: King of Porno" and as a howling ghoul on a mystery train at a nearby fair. They appear a perfect match, but will they ever find each other?

Right off the bat I'll come out and say that Amélie is one of the most charming and uplifting films I've seen this year. Jeunet has returned from his Hollywood sojourn, (with the under-rated Alien Resurrection under his belt) to co-write and direct this marvelous, energetic, sugar rush of a film. The film is imbued with nostalgia and whimsy, underpinned with an old-fashioned French sensibility and written with romance in mind. Shot in over eighty locations throughout the city, and set principally in and around Montmartre, Amélie looks like Paris in a snow-dome, meticulously cluttered with cafes, bookstores and antique shops, cobbled streets and clear blue canals and skies.

As charming as it is offbeat, Jeunet has created, through his title character and the impossibly perfect (digitally enhanced) Montmartre district, a spirited feature that unfolds in a series of magical moments. Audrey Tautou, as Amélie, is luminous and  magnetic and understandably became an instant star as a result of the film's huge arthouse success whilst Kassovitz (an accomplished director in his own right) gives a great performance as the mysterious Nino. Added to these two there's a rag-tag group of eccentrics including the hypochondriacal tobacconist, the fragile-boned painter living in a padded apartment, the failed writer and a bullying greengrocer and his compliant assistant to name but a few.

Amélie and her friends exist within a private fantasy landscape safe from the perils of "real life". If Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, as equally inventive as this feature, represent the nightmare of Jeunet's imagination, then Amélie is a friendly, reassuring dream, a film that reaffirms the inspiring and optimistic qualities of cinema.




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