Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Amelie



Le Fabuleux Destin dAmelie Poulain
(Amelie From Montmartre)
France 2001
director : Jean-Pierre Jeunet
script : Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant
cinematography : Bruno Delbonnel
editing : Herve Schneid
music : Yann Tiersen
lead actors : Audrey Tautou, Matthieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Serge Merlin
121 minutes

A box-office colossus in its native France, Amelie has already been described as a ‘cinch’ for Oscar glory next March. And like last year’s Foreign Language winner, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, it’s a stylised romance that uses innovative special effects to create a magical new world. But the focus this time is much more urban, modern and intimate, concentrating on Amelie Poulain (Tautou), a 23-year-old Parisian waitress. After a breakneck prologue showing her conception, birth and quirky childhood, the film follows her for exactly one month, as she deploys her vivid imagination to surreptitiously brighten the lives of her colleagues and neighbours in Montmartre. While Amelie’s motives are purely altruistic, they eventually lead her to Nino (Kassowitz), who’s just as dizzily romantic as she is. But things are never as straightforward as they appear …

When Amelie is good, it’s great, containing some of the most amazing moments you’ll experience in a cinema this year: unforgettable, delightful images that capture our heroine’s vision of life and confirm Jeunet (of Delicatessen fame) as a stylist of real visual flair. He’s like a more upbeat David Lynch, fascinated by the magical connections beneath the surfaces of everyday life. But great moments don’t make a great movie, and Jeunet’s script – co-written with Guillaume Laurant – isn’t in the same league as his engagingly bold direction.

After a hilarious, slam-bang opening, things bog down in the laborious second hour as the Amelie-Nino romance comes to the fore. The picture tries desperately to coast along on waves of Gallic charm, propelled by the insistent Michael Nyman-ish piano soundtrack, and it’s only the occasional magic moment that prevents it from running out of steam altogether. We don’t often stumble into such a seductive cinematic universe – but two hours does, unfortunately, end up feeling like a long time to be stuck there.

14th June 2001

by Neil Young

Buy Amelie on DVD here