wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s an enchanting tale set in the most romantic destination of all - Paris. A story of a girl with a lonely childhood who becomes a do-gooder and finds love along the way. Amelie is a treat for your senses - shot so beautifully, every frame is delicious in colour and shades, every sub-plot having the life of a charming, feel-good short-story in itself. Audrey Tautou is memorable in the title role that went on to bring her international acclaim. Nominated for 5 Oscars and winner of Best Foreign Language at BAFTA Awards. Winner of People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2001.Read more
I heard about Amelie for the first time during the 2001 edition of the Academy Awards, when it was being hailed as the favourite to win for Best Foreign Language film. The trailers, rich in colour, had caught my attention much more than the winner in that category, No Man’s Land. Ashutosh Gowariker (who was lobbying for Lagaan) had described Amelie as a “very cute film”.
Ten years later, when the DVD of the film officially released in India, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It had been a long wait and the film lived up to my expectations. This charming comedy is about a young girl, Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) with a lonely childhood. She grows up and thanks to a miraculous coincidence of destiny, decides to become a do-gooder, helping people around her find happiness. In the process, she embarks on finding some happiness for herself, as she falls in love with a stranger who, just like her, gets joy out of life’s simple pleasures.
The film is like watching an artist’s dynamic and alive canvas, for close to two hours. Few films have captured Paris so beautifully as this film has - every frame is the stuff picture postcards are made of, dripping with pastry shades and colours that have been brought to life by some meticulous digital retouching. The film is an achievement in cinematography with agile zoom-ins, top angle shots and soft, delicious lighting that makes every frame endearing. It also lends a certain swiftness and smooth flow to the film’s story, complimenting the stylishly crafted screenplay.
Paris looks like a fairy-tale throughout the film and director Jean Pierre Jeunet plays it up by introducing scenes that re-inforce that feeling (the scene at a funfair, for example.) Tautou’s close-ups have a certain discipline about them, depicting her shy nature with regularity, yet exuding a certain charm, which the actor has perfected in this film.
Amelie is also a lesson in drawing character outlines and sub-plots. The writers manage to make menial stuff look interesting, by giving each character distinct eccentric shades. So there’s a neighbour who sleeps all day, a bullying vegetable vendor down the street, a book-stall owner who cannot resist some gossip, a customer at a restaurant who pops bubble-wrap to pass time, an artist who has bones as brittle as glass. And there’s a young man, Nino (Mathieu Kassowitz) who collects one-minute photos which end up being discarded.
The wild-goose-chase that brings Amelie and Nino together is a highlight of the film, as is a kiss shared by the two. It is one of my favourite first kisses on screen - gentle, innocent, sweet, cute, deserving, all rolled into one. The absence of a background score during those moments makes the kiss almost perfect.
The soundtrack of the film lends the film a lot of its casual, whimsical feel. It’s a score that has over the years begun to be associated as very French, and full credit to musician Yann Tiersen for the same. Some tracks from the film have been my ringtones for a long time. And whenever my phone has rung and people have remarked, “Isn’t that from Amelie?”, I’ve smiled and realised what wonders Tiersen’s melodies have worked on audiences.
The Indian edition of the DVD, released by Shemaroo is heavily censored, and therefore the U/A rating. Amelie’s childbirth scene, the shot where she guesses how many people in this world must be having an orgasm at that moment, and a lovemaking scene in the toilet of a restaurant, are all censored. Naturally, those scenes seem abrupt in the DVD. Further, the absence of any DVD extras is a major downer. I would have really loved to see the making of the film and the director’s commentary. Despite having watched a really good film, the DVD left me feeling incomplete.
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