Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Movie Review: Amelie

U.S. Release Date: beginning 11/9/01 (limited)
Running Time: 2:00
Rated: R (Sexual content, brief nudity)
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Dominique Pinon, Isabelle Nanty, Serge Merlin

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Producers: Jean-Marc Deschamps, Claudie Ossard
Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant
Music: Yann Tiersen
Studio: Miramax Zoë
In French with Subtitles


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For some reason, foreign films happen to be a huge turnoff to most Americans. These days, it is rarity to find a motion-picture spoken in a non-English tongue gaining interest and exposure in the States. Why is this? Maybe it is the unfamiliar styles and cultures represented, that turns a typical American away. Or maybe it is just the sheer fact that one must suffer through the enormous task of having to read something (subtitles through translation) while watching a movie.

In the case of the French film, Amelie, the subtitles are not, at any time, an annoying distraction from the visuals, nor do they feel like an exhausting chore; they rather go unnoticed and seem altogether nonexistent, due to the film’s playful yet captivating script and its extremely-likable lead.

Amelie is a simple, charming, and coy young female who enjoys the little things in life, like dipping her hand into sacks of grain and skipping stones over small bodies of water. She finds happiness and joy in the simplest of things, but she soon realizes that something in her life is missing. Once Amelie finds a toy tin full of a young boy’s treasured relics and returns it to its much-obliged, and now older owner, she is inspired to go out into the world and help everyone she encounters. In turn, she not only helps all of those around her, but she also helps herself.

Witnessing Amelie’s antics and stratagems, as she acts as the ultimate do-gooder, is not only entertaining but also fantastical. Her silly questions and ways of thinking are unique, comical, and quirky, and make the overall picture extra amusing and enjoyable. The character of Amelie, played by Audrey Tautou, is both perky and delightful, and truthfully, there could not have been a better casting selection for the lead than Audrey. This beautiful brunette possesses such a radiant and attractive aura that she makes the movie bright, feathery, and fun all at the same time.

This fine piece of French confection cleverly covers all of the facets of love, failure, intuition, and sex in such an original and energetic manner. While some of the scenes that display these themes are unexpected, they are all artistic and functional in their own intended ways. Amelie allows you to believe that each and every person has the ability to indefinitely impact so many, and that you never know which direction your life will turn, even within the short time-frame of only 48 hours.

Amelie is more than a movie; it is also a visual experience to behold. The flowing camera movements and varying angles add to create a visually stunning and artsy touch. Furthermore, the palette of digitally enhanced colors used, mostly full of shiny reds and glossy greens, make for an overall look that the eye cannot ignore, but only marinate in. (The reds and greens are not overly used to create the Christmassy look that one might expect; instead, they are balanced out with an occasional blue or yellow to fashion a colorful and pleasing picture.) This film’s five Academy Award nominations in 2001, which included the likes of "Best Art Direction" and "Best Cinematography", are all without a doubt warranted.

Acquaint yourself with this film, and allow it to paint its picture of a dreamy young woman who is both in love, and in the process of discovering herself. This may be a foreign work of art that you are unfamiliar with, but that does not mean that it does not deserve its observation and recognition just as much as any other picture in the gallery. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004