- Jean-Pierre Jeunet
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, August 07, 2008
Now I have reevaluated what I have found to be a gem, much as the rest of the world did back then. Amélie does dream of a perfect world and does become an anonymous hero, but she soon enough embarks on a quest for her own happiness and simply finds herself unable to complete it. In frustration, she focuses on other people, and by way of doing so discovers herself. What she does for others is not nearly good enough, but it has the value of helping her find a meaning for her life.
Believed ill of the heart by her father, she was isolated during most of her life, she lost her mother early enough and spent an existence of imaginary friends and farfetched dreams. The story, beautifully shot by Bruno Delbonnel, presents Paris the way she sees it: fantastic, ideal, with pretty colors all around, neatness everywhere, smiling people and happy children. It’s not that the movie’s world is like that, it’s that Amélie’s world is.
Audrey Tautou doesn’t struggle to enamor the viewer in the title role, she simply does, as simply as she smiles, as easily as she floats around seamlessly, perfectly integrated to the fantasy world she introduces us to. André Dussollier narrates her story like a writer would narrate the adventures of his or her favorite character, which is exactly what he’s doing, channeling the voices of director Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant, who clearly put much love into the mix, and particularly into the conflicted character of Amélie.
Her story is amazing and we follow it with mighty will: we want her to be happy but we realize her whims will probably be over when she does, thus, we’re fine with flowing along in her colorful world as she does everything in her hands to give people a key to happiness, which sometimes falls into the category of dishonesty (a problem shared with another favorite, Life is Beautiful (1997)) but which is an undeniable triumph of the human spirit, and a welcome present.
Her match is a man she never speaks to in the entire film: Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), another dreamer. I won’t get into their story, which is vast despite their lack of dialogue exchange (I’m not complaining, but on the contrary, I applaud that decision); I’ll only say that Nino is the same kind of dreamer, and the way they dream is fantastic: they notice the little details, they make up their own, and they combine everything to bring balance to the world, not ignoring the chaos, but rather diminishing its impact by emphasizing the beauty of the smaller stuff, that which mostly goes unnoticed, but which shouldn’t since its universal importance is incalculable.
During her quest, Amélie meets many people and affects many lives; these people also affect her. Undoubtedly the most important is a neighbor who has no choice but to stay home: Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin), who soon becomes a confident if never openly. His relationship with Amélie is beautiful, and I love the way that subplot ends.
Mostly I enjoy the film’s truthful core despite its dreamlike attire. Just take a look around. Think about how everything Amélie notices, the sum of all little details, is real, it happens and is all around us. Think about how the change achieved in people thanks to her can happen in all of us, with small triggers like childhood memories, unexpected love or a lost letter. Consider my favorite: the ghost of the photographic booth. How often does something like that happen, how wonderful is it to think of it as something else, not just give it the most mundane explanation, but let imagination fly, and then find that the objective explanation, which no doubt always existed, is the surprise, is the climax.
The real world doesn’t necessarily look like Aline Bonetto designed it, in the colors with which Bruno Delbonnel photographs it and set to the sweet and wonderful music of Yann Tiersen… But why not? Is it not our decision to make it so?
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Other reviews of Amélie (2001): Jacinda