Amélie (2001)
July 31, 2023 11:14 AM - Subscribe

Despite being caught in her imaginative world, Amelie, a young waitress, decides to help people find happiness. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love.

"Amélie" is a fanciful comedy about a young woman who discretely orchestrates the lives of the people around her, creating a world exclusively of her own making. Shot in over 80 Parisian locations, acclaimed director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Delicatessen"; "The City of Lost Children") invokes his incomparable visionary style to capture the exquisite charm and mystery of modern-day Paris through the eyes of a beautiful ingenue.

Felicia Feaster: Unlike most films, which benefit from a honed-in, leaner storyline, Amelie is best when Jeunet's enchanted imagination flits from incident to incident like a demented bumblebee, determined to pollinate all the flowers in the universe. The film's opening few minutes alone knock the visual wind out of you with their sheer wonder, ingenuity and humor. When Jeunet latches onto a realistic, old-fashioned storyline — of Amelie's quest for a love match — the whole fantastic soap bubble bursts, but the film still continues to entrance.

Hannah Strong: We follow Amélie on her adventures around Paris with pleasure; Bruno Delbonnel's vivid cinematography presents the city as beautiful but unmistakably lively, a fairground ride in constant motion. Shots of the city resemble the French capital as seen on postcards, while the unmistakable rich reds and yellows of the film's colour palette were heightened in post-production to reflect Amélie's joie de vivre.

This feeling of romance and everyday magic is underscored by the instrumental compositions of Yann Tiersen, which Jeunet employs to great effect to highlight Amélie's capricious moods. This is not Paris in reality; this is the city of dreamers, a heightened reality in which the potential for magic lingers down every boulevard and in every metro station. While the world is often a harsh place, Jeunet and his creative team dare to imagine a kinder, gentler reality, where the dreamers and artists of the world aren't yet jaded by external forces.

Judith Egerton: Her focus on others, however, keeps Amelie from facing her own isolation and loneliness. Still, we suspect, it will all work out in the end when she meets a handsome young artist.

Jeunet's excessive use of film devices -- animation, asides to the camera and crazy angles -- seems romping fun at first, but all the wacky technical stuff begins to strain our patience by the end. Even so, Tautou and Paris are marvelous to look at. And these days, who among us has the heart to fault a movie that reminds us to seize the day.

posted by Carillon (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I remember seeing this for the first time and finding it so enchanting and fun. It's definitely a film that doesn't hold up on repeat viewings as well, but that first watch was magical. Also one that over the years has a certain disdain attached to it? I've definitely seen folks scoffing or talking down about it, either because of it's whimsy or because folks strongly ascribe the manic pixie dream girl trope to her.
posted by Carillon at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2023 [4 favorites]

I really like this movie. Yes, it's a little saccharine. But it's fun and sweet and whimsical and I don't care. I think it got more hate than it deserved because it was just so popular for a while and a lots of people started to say the liked 'foreign film' or 'French cinema', but when pressed it would turn out that Amélie was the only non-English movie they'd seen or were interested in seeing (also some sexist biases about romance movies).
posted by Garm at 1:03 PM on July 31, 2023 [5 favorites]

I loved this the first time and still like it a lot. I think it is not quite as wonderful as Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, but more memorable than the movies he did after.

Amélie is like the album Wish by The Cure. It was the best selling album they made and it was pretty good, but not as good as the records right before it. But also the last Cure album anyone really remembers well. To take this comparison all the way, Alien Resurrection=Mixed Up, City of Lost Children=Disintegration and Delicatessen=Kiss Me, but really it is more like Head on the Door. I have no idea how Micmacs might compare to Wild Mood Swings.

Also, this was not co-directed with Marc Caro, who didn't seem to do much on his own after they stopped working together, but maybe was part of what made the first two movies so great.
posted by snofoam at 3:08 PM on July 31, 2023 [2 favorites]

I saw this movie at least three times in the theater, and probably a dozen or so on VHS then DVD then Blu-Ray.

Her coming to the realization she her obsession with being an ultra whimsical manic-pixie-dream-weirdo was ruining her life is one of my favorite moments in all cinema.

Also, I was 20 when I saw it in theaters, and after the 2nd or 3rd viewing I it finally hit me that this was someone I could never meet in real life (since she was a character in a movie and not a real human being) and it made me profoundly sad, lol. 22ish years later as a jaded (not really) dude in my mid 40's I can laugh about it, but I was really down on myself when I realized there was no Amélie out there for me.
posted by Back At It Again At Krispy Kreme at 3:56 PM on July 31, 2023 [4 favorites]

I didn't really like this when I first saw it in theaters when it was first out. Some of that was because I felt like so many people expected me to like it because they thought I should, given my personality (I was a 20-year-old English major who listened to Belle & Sebastian and such, I guess). I didn't hate it but I didn't really connect with it.

I watched it again within the past couple of years and ... I still don't love it. It sort of feels like a parody of what most people think French movies are, but I think that's absolutely intentional. Even that is very French. This is all Frenchy Frenchness and that's part of what makes this movie this movie. I think that's why it works for a lot of people but that's why it doesn't work for me. It's a French movie for people who generally don't watch them.

(Let me be clear: I love French movies and I watch a wide range of them.)

I am really happy for the people who love this movie, though, and I kind of get why they do. It has just never worked for me. I was glad to rewatch it but also not surprised my feelings hadn't really changed.

Audrey Tautou is phenomenal in this, of course.
posted by edencosmic at 4:56 PM on July 31, 2023 [1 favorite]

I used to be a pretty hardcore cinematography nerd. Something I read in American Cinematographer magazine when this came out really stuck with me. They experimented with different lens focal lengths to exaggerate Audrey Tautou's features. They decided that a slightly wider than normal-perspective lens for closeups enlarged her eyes without obvious distortion - I think they used a 28mm prime for her closeups, and often filmed her from slightly above.

Now if someone wanted that effect they'd just do it in post.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 5:27 PM on July 31, 2023 [3 favorites]

The restaurant where Amelie worked is an actual working restaurant, and yes, they do acknowledge the connection - but not in an over-the-top way. They have a display case tucked away with some of the memorabilia from filming (I think there was a garden gnome mixed in with various ticket stubs, a couple signed photos, and suchlike). And - their dessert menu (at the time I went) calls its creme brulee the "Amelie special".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:48 PM on July 31, 2023 [5 favorites]

I was curious if Expedia took that gnome idea from Amelie, but apparently it has been a thing since the 70s.
posted by Carillon at 9:27 PM on July 31, 2023

Also one that over the years has a certain disdain attached to it?
Yes I think there are some who have a disdain for the film because, 22 years after its release, there are many people for whom Amelie is the one French film they are aware of: So the film serves as the filter through which people process the notions of "French Cinema" as well as "Paris" and finally "France". Amélie is an excellent film - but it can't be expected to do all that cultural heavy lifting. It is also rather at the sweet end of the spectrum of French film plots - which usually don't embrace sunniness and happy endings quite so heartily.
posted by rongorongo at 1:43 AM on August 1, 2023

I know an American woman who named her (now) teenaged daughter after this character.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:37 AM on August 1, 2023

I thought it was a good movie, visually appealing with a sweet narrative, which felt good, especially seeing it closely after 9/11 (was released in Oct 2001 here) a very good distraction from the prevailing mood around the time.

I almost walked out when the movie baited us into thinking that 'an even that would change Amelie's life....' was the death of Princess Diana, while it instead was the discovery of the hidden souvenir box, would 100% not have stayed if it was the former, but good job movie, you got me.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 9:59 AM on August 1, 2023

It is no 'City of Lost Children' - which is more a force of nature than a film - but this was certainly the film we needed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 2:41 PM on August 1, 2023 [1 favorite]

This is one of those situations where I can't remember if I got this from Mefi previously, but JPJ has since explained what was really going on in the story - Amelie: the real story
posted by Molesome at 2:54 AM on August 2, 2023 [3 favorites]

It also introduced a whole ton of people to Yann Tiersen's music, which is a net good, I think.
posted by mykescipark at 1:18 PM on August 2, 2023

but JPJ has since explained what was really going on in the story - Amelie: the real story yt

OK, if anyone is going, "aargh I don't want to watch some video" (like me) - it's less than 7 minutes and totally worth it.

Cheers, Molesome.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:59 PM on August 2, 2023

Why Amélie is so Weird - which is really a summary of the influences the film is drawing from. A lot of those influences where from French new wave cinema that was quite heavily improvised. Amélie also often has the feeling of being delivered as a stream of thought - but at the same time it was meticulously story-boarded and scripted (18 drafts).

Of course - influence goes both ways - so we also have Why many filmmakers steal from Amélie - particular reference to its camerawork and colour grading.
posted by rongorongo at 2:01 AM on August 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

Of course - influence goes both ways - so we also have Why many filmmakers steal from Amélie - particular reference to its camerawork and colour grading.

Yes, the aggressive color grading was a watershed moment for many filmmakers when the movie was released, there's been lots written about it, including this presentation by Kimberly Dickerson (Amelie-specific starts on slide 19)

Like many other groundbreaking technical advances, the look got copied over and over and now you can even find color presets in grading software to give you the "Amelie look" with the click of a button. It's hard 20+ years later for anyone to experience that feeling of first watch today because of that.

The problem with copying the various "looks" is that the color choices actually had symbolism within the story, color was essentially another character and was matched to reflect Amelie's experiences and imagination. When other films appropriated these color styles randomly, it diluted and/or confused the meaning.
posted by jeremias at 8:33 AM on August 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this movie for what it was when it came out and am generally bummed out that a ton of people saw it and were like, "ok, I guess now I've seen fReNcH cINemA, nothing special! We have magic pixie dream girls at home" and never watched another French movie.
posted by potrzebie at 5:56 PM on August 4, 2023

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