Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children)
Starring Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz
Review by Jordan
“At least you’ll never be a vegetable – even artichokes have hearts.”
Art films and French films often appear inseparable, with thought of one often (and often mistakenly) leading to thought of another. If the concept of Artistic expression in films is that they can then be observed and pondered on different levels and for different qualities other than linearity and narrative resolution, then there is a certain classic adored and cherished by many that nestles snug in this criteria, while still presenting itself as the most assessable of its type. Amélie.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s tale is a window open to the life of an observant, whimsical 23 year old who having reached the end of an eccentric childhood spends the formative years of her young-adulthood waitressing at a café and tending to her gnome-polishing father. Upon accidently discovering a neglected tin, hidden behind a tile in the bathroom of her apartment and filled with nostalgic childhood toys, Amélie is led by her adventurous spirit to return it to its long-separated owner; a noble quest that will end in tears of happiness for him and a feeling of warm satisfaction for our hero, such as she doesn’t feel elsewhere with the exclusion of piercing the top of a crème brulee and sinking her hand into a bag of seeds. Ecstatic with this resolution, Amelie sets out to instil happiness in others, from impulsively assisting a blind man cross a busy road and explaining with fervour their detailed surroundings to helping the meek and nervous fruit stand assistant Lucien find his voice.
She has found a Cupid-like calling that matches her charmingly nonconformist personality, but when the possibility of love for herself is found collecting polaroid photos from underneath a public booth, a fear of losing control of parts of her unique identity takes hold, and while she can continue a romantic escapade from a distance, when close enough to speak she finds herself unwilling; mildly cowardly. Truly, though, the involved narrator speaks more than her throughout the entire story, and the enchanted man, at once a stranger to her and kindred spirit, is so smitten to be ever patient. He will enjoy the mysteries she presents and the enigma she represents, and once they meet, a well-hidden trepidation Amélie harboured of growing apart from herself and the personal pleasures and views she enjoys, is replaced with a sense of excitement.
The reclusive, brittle-boned Mr. Dufayel has painted the Luncheon of the Boating Party 20 times, yet perfection in one, seemingly small detail eludes him. What is in the heart and mind of the girl drinking a glass of water? Her expression is vacant and open to endless interpretation, and finally, after many vain attempts, filled in the end. Amélie is the muse who herself needed inspiration; now aware that embracing new wonders in life can be just as magical as those that have been her comfort in the past.
If she were to watch her own film, she would notice the details no one else sees. No one else can view it through her eyes, so instead we notice the details we extrapolate and feel.