Review: Simon Bell
SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary; Storyboards; Script
to screen feature; Teaser trailers; Trailer; Talent Q & A
feature; Director's interview; Audrey Tatou's Funny Faces feature;
'Making of Amelie' featurette; Collectors booklet.
BILLED as it is, as a film that will "make people happy", Amélie
incorporates a story and style that combine to create a fantastic
(in the traditional sense) spectacle of magical realism; it's
a movie that explores childhood eccentricity and how innocent
certainty can cause confusion and perplexity.
It's also a picture that has wowed more than seven million eager
viewers on its home turf. Little Amélie Poulain is educated
at home by overprotective parents after being incorrectly diagnosed
with a heart condition. Following the loss of her mother to a
freak collision with a suicidal Canadian tourist, Amélie
grows up in a Wonderland of her own devising while Dad tends to
his garden gnome.
Leaving the suburbs to become a waitress in a Parisian cafe,
Amélie remains ensconced in her fabulous existence while
secretly plotting to improve the lives of lonely neighbours, love-starred
co-workers and her solitary father. It's only when she discovers
a bizarre "family" photo album does our protagonist set out on
a serpentine adventure through the streets of Montmartre to corner
her own destiny.
As its original French title suggests,
`Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain' is a fable - and who better
to carry Jean-Pierre Jeunet's fairy-tale than relative newcomer
Audrey Tautou, with her cartoon character wide eyes and cute Gallic
beauty; a grown up (but no more reality-driven) Ludovic: Georges
du Fresne in Alain Berliner's `Ma Vie en Rose' (1997), a film
with which Amélie shares many positive similarities. Director
Jeunet says he likes working with secondary characters and character
actors - those with a "real face" - and it's just the casting
of Tautou's support that lends the piece its gothic, circus feel,
so brilliantly created previously in his cult masterpiece `Delicatessen'
Unforgettable is Dominique Pinon as the pathologically jealous
cafe dweller with a penchant for popping bubble-wrap. But just
as enjoyable are Claire Maurier the barkeep, Clotilde Mollet as
the waitress/bone-cracker, and Mathieu Kassovitz (known to us
Brits as writer/director of La Haine) who works in `Palace Video,
King of Porno' while building a collection of photo booth strips
and concrete footprints.
Ultimately, Amélie is an incursion into the fertile blend
of dream, folk-tale and myth. And although highly successful with
the dark dystopia of Alien Resurrection, here Jean-Pierre Jeunet
concocts a strange but bright domain that functions according
to its own, very entertaining logic.