Amelie - rated - SIMMERING


The director of Amelie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet is here making a film without his long-time collaborator, Marc Caro with whom he made Delicatessen (1991), and City of the Lost Children (1995). Alone, since then, Jeunet has also made Alien Resurrection (1997). That film was only partly successful, but then again it was the second sequel to a masterpiece. One wonders, though, when collaborators split up whether the film might suffer for the lack of a moderating force (like Paul Macartney writing songs without John Lennon, for example).

With Amelie, Jeunet has made a ravishing-looking film, with gorgeous use of cinematic technique, similarly, in many ways to Baz Luhrman's masterful Moulin Rouge (2001). In fact, Moulin Rouge is largely responsible for the long gap in my film reviews: I was just too stunned to take notes during Moulin Rouge, and I let it wash over me - then I lost the habit of reviewing!

But back to Amelie: Amelie is charming, pretty and joyful - and just a bit calculated. Individual scenes are lovely and the characters are heartwarming, but I thought the film overall lacked heart. As you watch the film you think it is original: here is a girl who is one-of-a-kind. She just wants to do good. But then it turns out that all Amelie wants is to fall in love.

Similarly, the film is like a love-letter to Paris (Montmartre in particular), but this isn't the real Paris - this is Parisworld, a sanitised version of the real thing. There is no rubbish, dog poo or graffiti here. There are no ethnic minorities either (only one Algerian, and he is a little slow, so non-threatening). In fact, at one point in the film I thought it was going to change course and become realistic when a group of thugs approached Amelie at the railway station, but they suddenly veered off and out of the film!

Each of the people Amelie helps in the film has issues that can be reduced to one problem - which Amelie can solve. This is all too easy. And yet, there are many moments which have such a sense of grace about them that it seems churlish to criticise. For example, the moment when the grandfather gives the special piece of the roast chicken to his grandson is a moment which brings tears to my eyes, even now, as I type it.

So Amelie the movie is both beautiful and cynical. But like Amelie's heart, the film's heart is an illusion. On that basis, I preferred Monsoon Wedding that week.

© Michèle M Asprey 2002

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