Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This is the filmmaker whose signature is a sequence of lovemaking which
reverberates through the establishment and shakes the furniture and objects on its with
good natured thumping. In Delicatessen, it was an apartment block; in Amélie it’s a
café bar in Montmartre. Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a game and irreverent filmmaker, but he has
a heart of romantic gold. He loves people, and if any of his characters get out of hand,
there is retribution at hand. Always funny retribution.
But Amélie is not about that at
all. That’s just one of the many side trips and sub-stories, incidentals and asides,
in what is a film full of them. There is more business in the film than actual story, and
you can search most of it for meaning in vain. Some of the recurring elements you may wish
to interpret as metaphors for something include photographs, dreams and cats. Of course,
apart from all that, it is as ever, a search for self and love. It is also more inventive
and energetic than a dozen conveyor belt teen comedies from Hollywood studios aching for a
There is a dozing gap in the middle (I looked at the clock) but then it picks up
again, and Amélie steals our hearts. Audrey Tautou is unsettlingly reminiscent of a young
Jean Simmons in many shots, and her performance is every bit as good, too. She acts with
her eyes in a way many great golden age actresses do (Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman . . .)
Don’t expect it to make too much sense in the straight, structured story way, and be
ready for some filmmaking magic; this is a fairy story of sorts, a tale of a young woman
told by idiots (in the nicest sense – of innocents). To enjoy it most, simply
surrender to the fantasies and the tour de farce which stamps all of Jeunet’s work.
Review by Louise Keller:
Whimsical, fresh and joyous filmmaking, Amélie is a fabulous fable. Just like the
perennial domino effect, from one single event comes a resulting stream of consciousness
that changes everything.
Time, coincidence, chance all play a part, but the very essence
of the film is brand spanking new. There’s nothing like a little light hearted
mystery to brush off life’s cobwebs. Sometimes all it needs is to plant a seed, or
change something that is so familiar that we sit up and take notice.
And the result? Joy,
curiosity, amazement, melancholy and a totally different slant on the world. There’s
a bizarre sense of the ridiculous. Take the garden gnome, for instance. Amélie’s
father places it by his late wife’s shrine, and when it is stolen, is amazed to
receive photographs of his beloved gnome from New York, Moscow and other recognisable
cities around the world. And there’s a pay off - not only to this subplot, but to
each of the mini plots that revolve around the fascinating characters.
With the exuberance
of Audrey Hepburn, Audrey Tautou delights with her wide eyed wonder and mischievous gaze.
She is innocent and guilty, well meaning and interfering all at once. Mathieu Kassovitz is
terrific too, as is the entire cast.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s wonderful tale has an
unusual structure and certainly doesn’t follow the rules. Set in beautiful Paris with
her glorious and distinctive landmarks, The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie is as rich and
satisfying as its music. It’s rich with complex layers of the human condition, and
set in beautiful Paris, we are overwhelmed by the journey. But just as the thrust of the
film shows that the smallest little things can make such an impact, the outcome is a
sweet, uplifting, capricious journey that we are compelled to make.