A very fabulous destiny indeed
Amelie is, without qualification, the best film I saw in 2001, The Contender being a close second. Well before the end of the film I knew this. This exuberance is a feeling I get once in a great while. I had that feeling during My First Mister, the last time I recall this feeling - and face it, if I can't recall it immediately, it doesn't count. But My First Mister bogged down a little bit at the end. I also had this feeling for American Beauty when I saw it at the Breckenridge Film Festival, so we're keeping good company here. Amelie finishes with a flourish, and there's only one plot line that left me wondering, and I'm willing to chalk that up to imprecise translation or my own confusion.
Yes, Amelie is a foreign film, French in fact. And I am quite relieved to find french fare outside explorations of the hollows of the soul like films of Catherine Breillat and Patrice Chereau.
Is there no ingredient in this recipe that doesn't shine? The script is a masterwork of brilliance, juggling half a dozen or more plotlines while maintaining a very linear structure, with such a frantic pace it would be easy to lose the audience, but even with subtitles, I was completely immersed.
The casting of Audrey Tautou as Amelie Poulain was an insightful choice. She sparkles on the screen, bringing subtle emotions out wordlessly, which turns out to be pretty important. Most of the other roles are brief enough that a one-dimensional portrayal would pass for well done, but there is a feeling of depth behind them, even where there is no chance to be expressed.
Every shot was clearly envisioned with creativity. The pure beauty of the film would be noteworthy even without the extremely well done digital effects sprinkled throughout. Now, effects such as these frequently butcher the authenticity of a film - either becoming a film about the effects, existing as no more than a framework to show up fancy CGI, or they stand out like a sore thumb, having little to do with the matter at hand. The filmmakers here (and a lot of credit goes to the script) accomplish the difficult task of making these effects a distinct part of the reality of the film.
My least favorite thing about this film? The poster. And that doesn't actually count, since it's not on the screen. But still, this makeup on the character of Amelie doesn't appear anywhere that I remember. Maybe they were looking to increase the contrast of the print, or perhaps it comes from whatever French idiosyncracy that produces mimes. In any case, I don't feel like it's that representative of the film that way.
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