Review

At the time of its U.S. release AMÉLIE FROM MONTMARTRE had earned almost $40 million in France and had garnered the People's Choice Award at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival. The fertile cinematic imagination of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (DELICATESSEN, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN) has this time brought forth what may well become a classic of the French Cinema.

The film starts with a brief visit to the childhood of Amélie as seen through her eyes, eyes full of magical realism as the young girl negotiates her mischievous way between her emotionally dry parents. In the title role of the adult Amélie is Audrey Tautou, a 23-year-old actress whom the camera loves. Amélie works her enchanting spell on those around her in Paris as she works at her job as a cafe waitress. Amélie casts a spell on the audience as well. The part calls for a beautiful, whimsical, jocular mistress of trickery who can put her nose into the lives of those around her. The magic here is that we also see her hugely damaged heart and soul seeking an outlet by reaching out to help others.

It all starts out rather simply as the adult Amélie finds a young boy's cache in a tin box that has been hidden and forgotten for over 40 years. With some detective work she is able to locate the now middle-aged owner -- with results so touching and wonderful that she begins to find ways to help others around her. The things Amélie does are so improbable as to become believable as she sets up ways to improve the lives of the various "walking wounded" around her. Amélie is also capable of handing out appropriate -- and humorous -- punishments to those who deserve such. Among her many boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl scenarios she eventually enters one of her own: Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) and Amélie take us on further incandescent adventures.

The film is beautifully realized on every level. It doesn't hurt that Miss Tautou has a phenomenal film presence, a presence that illuminates the whole film. The images that occur and the mastery of film technique at Jeunet's fingertips can create an instant segue from the spiritual/philosophical plane to a present reality represented by the sound of a microwave's ring. Amélie, the "Madonna of the Unloved," somehow lets us see the relationships between such disparate things as yard gnomes, discarded or torn passport photos, a horse joining in a bicycle race, the "Porno Video Police" that are not at all police-like, old television images and Zorro -- and on and on as the film goes everywhere and takes the viewer breathlessly along as Amélie devises her stratagems and works her magic. What a film! It is special: special acting, special direction, special script, special effects.

by Larry Fletcher - American Dreamer STAFF


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