Amelie (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Released in France as "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain".

Every once in a while a film comes along which reaches the height of artistic expression that is normally achieved only by art and literature. Amelie is such a movie. It is also a beloved crowd pleaser and a box office smash.

It is possible that you will find the story syrupy and trivial. I did, too. Of course, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool crotchety old geezer who makes Dennis Miller, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and other jaded world-weary types seem like members of the King family, so I hate this kind of heart-warming crap. But that doesn't matter at all, because the execution of the film is so good that it won me over even though I was predisposed to dislike it.

It is just that good.

It's witty, it's joyfully sentimental, it's romantic, it's literate, it's funny ...

Oh, yeah, and it may be the most ingeniously photographed film in history. I don't think any film has even presented a more attractive picture of Paris. The special color treatments, the vivid greens and reds of the fauve painters, make this entire film look like a romanticized 19th century Paris street scene come to life and modernized. Virtually every frame of the film could be snapped, enlarged and hung on your wall. When you see this film, you'll want to travel to Paris, just as so many wanted to in an earlier epoch after seeing the street scenes of Utrillo and Pisarro.

The camera angles are clever. The perspectives are inventive. The transitions from scene to scene, often linking them by phone, telescope or binoculars, are delightful. Audrey Tautou is completely charming, a reincarnation of Audrey Hepburn with a better figure.


  • Isis Peyrade is topless as a peep-show stripper.
  • Amelie Poulain's mother (body double) is shown naked at the beginning and end of her pregnancy
  • One topless woman is seen in the rapid cuts when Amelie counts the couples currently having orgasms in Paris.
  • Various giant-breasted women are seen in magazines on display in a porno shop.

Hollywood likes to laugh at the French filmmakers because they want to make works of art before they know how to remove the lens cap. Well, France just achieved total technical parity, and maybe even a bit more. The cinematography and editing employed here are absolutely at a virtuoso level.

The story:

Amelie was a lonely girl who grew up to be a charming, naive, withdrawn adult. One day, a fateful circumstance led her to discover a box of children's toys from the fifties. She ingeniously contrived to return them to their owner, and this had such a positive effect on her and the owner, that she resolved to become a regular do-gooder, but always at a safe emotional and physical distance. For example, she gave the toy box back by placing it in a public phone booth, then dialing the number as the owner passed. Of course, he thought it must be miraculous.

At the same time, Amelie had discussions with a reclusive old man who kept repainting Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" every year, but could never quite get the correct facial expression on one girl. Amelie came to identify with this girl, and got to talk about her own life with the old man by using the girl in the painting as a surrogate. This process led her to seek richer interaction with people in her own life.

Renoir's painting serves as an excellent connection between the visual world of the Impressionists, and the visual world of this film, which creates a filmed impressionism or post-impressionism of its own.

And then there is the mystery of the man who appears in so many discarded photo booth pictures throughout Paris. Just who is he?


DVD info from Amazon - two disks

• The "Amélie Effect" (English) Featurette
• The "Look of Amélie" (English) Featurette
• Fantasies of Audrey Tautou (French with English subtitles)
• Q & A with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (English)
• Q & A with Director and Cast (French with English subtitles)
• Auditions -- Audrey Tautou, Urbain Cancelier, Yolande Moreau (French with English subtitles)
• Storyboard Comparison
• An Intimate Chat with Jean-Pierre Jeunet (French with English subtitles)
• Home Movies - "Inside the Making of Amélie" (French with English subtitles)
• "A Quai" Music Video
• The Amélie Scrapbook -- "Behind the Scenes," French Poster Concepts
• "The Garden Gnome's Travels" and Storyboards
• Widescreen anamorphic format, 2.35:1

It's a terrific movie, and a great directorial achievement. I just can't fathom why Jean-Pierre Jeunet was not nominated for the Best Director Oscar. No other directing achievement of 2001 approaches this film except Baz Luhrmann for Moulin Rouge, and this is a much richer film than Moulin Rouge in many ways. I don't mean to denigrate what Ron Howard did in A Beautiful Mind. Indeed, perhaps A Beautiful Mind is a better film, because Amelie is simply a confection. But what a confection, and the contribution of the director to Amelie was present in every camera perspective, in every color filter, in every actor's glance, in every technical trick. It is a director's film, pure and simple. Jeunet could not have been more responsible for it if he had held a brush and painted it on canvas like Renoir. 
Tuna's thoughts in yellow:

In places, it was downright laugh out loud hilarious. Someone convinced the child Amelie that she was causing traffic accidents by taking pictures with her camera. When she realized she had been had, she came up with a great method of revenge. She got on his roof with a TV, and waited for each goal opportunity in the soccer match he was watching to unplug his cable.

Scoop also mentioned that it was a director's picture, and intelligent. The example that struck me was that, even though they had a narrator, the narrator provided mood, not exposition, and not speaking French is not a big disadvantage in this film, as the director showed you what was going on, rather than telling you.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, 5/5

  • General UK consensus: three stars. Daily Mail 6/10, The Guardian 6/10, Evening Standard 7/10, The Express 10/10, The Mirror 8/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 8.9/10 (#13 of all time), Guardian voters 8.5/10. It is the all-time date movie, since men and women both think it is a masterpiece (men 8.9, women 9.1), and they like it about equally.
  • with their dollars: a phenomenal success, grossing $33 million in the USA despite being in French with subtitles, and never being on more than 303 screens. (Blockbusters are shown on ten times as many screens.). Was seen by 8.6 million people in France - about 15% of the population - roughly equivalent to a $300 million blockbuster in the USA.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B+ or an A. It is an artistic achievement, a critical success, and a crowd-pleasing entertainment. It is intelligent, clever, witty, and beautiful. What the hell else is there? Any filmmaker would be proud to have created this film. (Tuna: Film just doesn't get much better than this. This film is, to me, an A. It seems to have universal appeal, even though it is in French and subtitles. Any other year, the film would have had an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and probably should have taken Best Director.)

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