Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001)
The appearance and spirit of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's unanimously celebrated Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain is both strikingly beautiful and delicately sensitive. The latter, I suspect, is what has given the film such widespread appeal with women, and for a good reason, because the character of Amélie is one of the most natural, intelligent, flimsy and feminine female roles in the history of cinema. It's a delight to watch her 'unmoviestarness' (for lack of a better word), and she's an inspiration and source of identification for most of us. Brought to life by Audrey Tautou's one-of-a-kind performance, Jeunet's most important achievement with this film is the creation of the title role itself.
What is just as prominent, however, is the visual look of the film - from the fairytale-looking streets of Paris to the amazing palette of Bruno Delbonnel's cinematography. Jeunet has long been known for having a knack for visuals, and in Amélie it complements his story better than it has done before.
But for all the beauty, intelligence and vitality of both Amélie herself, the many secondary characters and the cute (and naïve) plot she's surrounded by, Jeunet's film is also a topsy-turvy of constantly quirky characters and situations whose oddness is used for some simple, good-spirited physical comedy and, ultimately, repetitive feats. It's as if Jeunet fears his characters aren't oddball enough to meet our expectations. Too often does he let his louder comedic material overshadow the more amiable details, and as the film progresses, quantity becomes more important than quality when it comes to Amélie's deeds and exploits.
That is a shame, because it wears out this otherwise incredibly uplifting and special film. A film that explores grounds that are unusual on film but so ordinary in our daily lives, such as shyness and voyeurism. Had we been allowed to go a bit deeper into Amélie and been released from Jeunet's overly quirky atmosphere for just a few seconds, I might have dubbed this an important movie.