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oblique lie

Amélie

Amélie is a 2001 French film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Audrey Tautou. Its original French title is Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain which literally translates as "The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain"; poulain is French for foal. Written by Jeunet with Guillaume Laurant, the film is a whimsical and somewhat idealised depiction of contemporary Parisian life, set in Montmartre. It tells the story of a shy waitress who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better, while struggling with her own isolation.

Amélie won best film at the European Film Awards; it won four César Awards (including Best Film and Best Director), two BAFTA Awards (including Best Original Screenplay), and was nominated for five Academy Awards. (See below for other awards and recognition.)

Plot

Amélie is the story of Amélie Poulain, a girl who grows up isolated from other children. Raphaël, her taciturn, antisocial ex-Army doctor father, mistakenly believes that she suffers from a heart condition (a mistake, in fact, resulting from the increase in her heartbeat caused by the rare thrill of physical contact with her father, who only ever touches her during medical check-ups). Her mother Amandine, a neurotic schoolteacher with shaky nerves, sees to Amélie's education. Amandine dies when Amélie is young, the victim of a freak accident involving a suicidal Québécoise woman who throws herself off the top of Notre Dame Cathedral and lands on Amélie's mother. Raphaël withdraws even further as a result, and devotes his life to building a rather eccentric shrine in the garden in Amandine's memory, which houses her ashes. Left to amuse herself, Amélie develops an unusually active imagination.

When she grows up, Amélie becomes a waitress in a small Montmartre café, The Two Windmills, run by a former circus performer. The café is staffed and frequented by a gang of eccentrics. By age 22, life for Amélie is simple; having spurned romantic relationships following a few failed efforts, she has devoted herself to simple pleasures, such as dipping her hand into sacks of grain, cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon, skipping stones across St. Martin's Canal, trying to guess how many couples in Paris are having an orgasm at one moment ("Fifteen!", she informs the camera correctly), and letting her imagination roam free.

Her life begins to change on the day that Princess Diana dies. After hearing the news of her death on television, Amelie drops her perfume bottle cap, knocking loose a bathroom wall tile. Behind the loose tile she finds an old metal box of childhood memorabilia hidden by a boy who lived in her apartment decades ago. Fascinated by the find, she resolves to track down the now-grown man who put it there and return it to him, making a deal with herself in the process: if she finds him and it makes him happy, she will devote her life to bringing happiness to others.

She meets her reclusive neighbour, Raymond Dufayel, a painter who continually repaints Luncheon of the Boating Party (Le Déjeuner des canotiers) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He is known as 'the Glass Man' because of his brittle bone condition. With his help, she tracks the former occupant down, and places the box in a phone booth, ringing the number as he passes to lure him there. Upon opening the box, the man, moved to tears, has an epiphany as long-forgotten childhood memories come flooding back. She trails him to a nearby bar and observes him secretly. On seeing the positive effect she had on him, she resolves from that moment on to do good in the lives of others.

Amélie becomes a secret matchmaker and guardian angel, executing complex but hidden schemes impacting the lives of those around her with subtle, arm's-length manipulation, leading to several sub plots and episodes. She escorts a blind man to the Metro station, giving him a rich description of the street scenes he passes. She persuades her father to follow his dream of touring the world by stealing his garden gnome and having an air-hostess friend send pictures of it from all over the world. She matches a co-worker with one of the customers in the bar. She convinces the unhappy concierge of her building that the husband who abandoned her had in fact sent her a final love letter just before his death. She supports Lucien, the young man who works for Mr. Collignon, the bullying owner of the neighbourhood green grocer. By playing practical jokes on Collignon she undermines his confidence until he questions his own sanity.

However, while she is looking after others, Mr Dufayel is observing her and begins a conversation with her about his painting. He has repeatedly painted the same piece because he cannot quite capture the excluded look of the girl drinking a glass of water. They repeatedly discuss the meaning of this character and although it is never explicitly said, she comes to represent Amélie and her lonely life. Through their discussions Amélie is forced to examine her own life and her attraction to a stranger, a quirky young man who collects the discarded photographs of strangers from passport photo booths, with whom she has never spoken. She begins to observe him from a distance and is on the scene to pick up his photo album when he drops it in the street. She discovers his name is Nino Quincampoix, and she plays a cat and mouse game with him around Paris before eventually anonymously returning his treasured album; however, she is too shy to actually approach him, and almost loses hope when, having finally attempted to orchestrate a proper meeting, she misinterprets events when he enters into a conversation with one of her co-workers. It takes Raymond Dufayel's insightful friendship to give her the courage to overcome her shyness and finally meet with Nino, and the two begin a relationship.

Cast

Production

In his commentary on the DVD edition, Jeunet explains that he originally wrote the role of Amélie for the British actress Emily Watson; in the original draft, Amélie's father was an Englishman living in London. However, Watson's French was not strong, and when she became unavailable to shoot the film, owing to a conflict with the filming of Gosford Park, Jeunet rewrote the screenplay for a French actress. Audrey Tautou was the first actress he auditioned.

The filmmakers made use of computer-generated imagery and a digital intermediate.

The studio scenes were filmed in the Coloneum Studio in Cologne (Germany).

Distribution and responses

The film was released in France, Belgium, and French-speaking western Switzerland in April 2001, with subsequent screenings at various film festivals followed by releases around the world. It received limited releases in North America, the UK and Australasia later in 2001.

Racism accusation

The film was a critical and commercial success, but it was attacked by critic Serge Kaganski of les Inrockuptibles for its depiction of a largely unrealistic and picturesque vision of contemporary French society, a postcard universe of a bygone France with few people from ethnic minorities. If the director was trying to create an idyllic vision of a perfect Paris, Kaganski argued, he seemed to think that it was necessary to remove nearly all black people from the scene in order to do so. Jeunet dismissed such criticism by pointing out both that the photo collection contains pictures of many different people from numerous ethnic backgrounds, and that Jamel Debbouze, who plays Lucien (a french name), is of North African descent.

Cannes rejection

Cannes Film Festival selector Gilles Jacob described Amélie as "uninteresting", and therefore it was not screened at the festival, although the version he viewed was an early cut without music. The absence of Amélie at the festival caused something of a controversy because of the warm welcome by the French media and audience in contrast with the reaction of the selector.

Awards

The film was a critical and box office success, gaining wide play internationally as well. It was nominated for five Academy Awards:

In 2001 it won several awards at the European Film Awards, including the Best Film award.

It also won the People's Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Crystal Globe Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

In 2002, in France, it won the César Award for:

The film was selected by The New York Times as one of "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.

In 2006, the film came second in a national poll of Australia's favourite films, conduced by television station ABC TV.

Entertainment Weekly named the film poster one of the best on its list of the top 25 film posters in the past 25 years. It also named Amélie setting up a wild goose chase for her beloved Nino all through Paris as #9 on its list of top 25 Romantic Gestures.

Artwork featured

  • The film features the artwork of Michael Sowa, whose paintings adorn the walls in Amélie's bedroom, at one point engaging in a surreal conversation about Amélie's love life.

Film clips used

The film featured film or video clips from the following:

Soundtrack

Also See: Yann Tiersen

Track listing

Translation differences

In the English subtitled version, the concierge, Madeleine Wallace, is renamed Madeleine Wells in order to maintain a joke in the screenplay: in the original French, she mentions that she is destined to cry because her name is Madeleine, and goes on to refer to the French expression "pleurer comme une Madeleine" (a reference to the tears cried by Mary Magdalen). Her surname, Wallace, is compared with the Wallace fountains of Paris, continuing the crying theme. The English version retains the mention of Mary Magdalen but alters the joke with the surname, as the phrase "to well up" means to cry. In the English subtitled version, the concierge, Madeleine Wallace, remarks that her husband ran off to Panama. However, in the original French version, her husband runs off to the Pampas.

In the Region 1 English subtitled DVD when Amélie orders Nino to look at 'page 51' of his scrapbook, the subtitle erroneously reads 'Page St.' This mistake does not appear on U.S. television sets programmed to display closed captioning.

In the Region 1 English subtitles, Amelie says "But I hate it in old movies, when drivers don't watch the road"; but the French dialogue in fact means "But I hate it in old American films when the drivers don't watch the road." This distinction, however, remains in the Region 2 English subtitling.

Influence

The film has inspired many lesser-recognized works in the years following its release. Lasses's Monuments novel contains a reference to Amelie. The 2006 film Paris, je t'aime features a picture of Amélie's mischievous smile in the short film Porte de Choisy. In this short film, a man enters a beauty salon attempting to sell beauty products. The owner of the shop wants the man to give hairstyling a try, and one of the noticeable hairstyles was Tautou's Amélie.

A recently discovered new species of frog was named as Cochranella amelie in honor of the movie Amelie. A significant honor in the academic world, the scientist that described the new species stated: "The name of this new species of Glassfrog is for Amelie, protagonist of the extraordinary movie “Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain”; a movie where little details play an important role in the achievement of joie de vivre; like the important role that Glassfrogs and all amphibians and reptiles play in the health of our planet". This new species was described in the scientific journal Zootaxa () in an article entitled "An enigmatic new species of Glassfrog (Amphibia: Anura: Centrolenidae) from the Amazonian Andean slopes of Ecuador" ()

Amélie's scheme involving her father's garden gnome is an example of the "travelling gnome prank", which is based on real life occurrences since the 1980s, and also appeared in the British soap opera Coronation Street. Some journalists have regarded Amélie as the inspiration for more recent cases of the prank. The Traveling Gnome has also inspired the Travelocity "Roaming Gnome" commercials.

See also

References

External links

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