Ya know, having watched a lot of movies in recent time, I have come to realize that my attention span is short. I mean, it’s way better than when I was a kid, but it still takes a lot for me to pay attention to a film, even ones I like. I love movies like Miller’s Crossing and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but sheesh, two and a half hours. Great movie, highly recommend it, but I am not comfortable sitting in one spot for too long. But when a movie really grips me, really gets me, and I want to see it fully, I will pause it, go and do something else, and come right back, rather than just mess about with the movie in the background. And having used this new years resolution to watch at least one hundred different movies, I think I found a real classic in this one. I was able to find some good films, like Tokyo Drifter, Tekkonkinkreet and Meet the Feebles, and some new favorites of mine like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Chinatown. But one film really stood out as being something that really got me. So my good friend Nyanpire told me of this French movie called Amélie from 2001, the same year as the all time classic movie, Freddy Got Fingered (I promise this is the only time I will make that joke). She said that this movie was one of her favorites and felt like a fairy tale. I remember hearing about this movie and remember it was pretty well known in America. Well, as well known as a foreign movie can be. This was long before Parasite would come out in 2019 and sweep the United States off their feet and prove that foreign films have just as much in the world of cinema and even the Oscars as Hollywood films. So it’s strange to find that Amélie had some impact back in 2001. So I agreed to watch it. And was immediately intimidated. A two hour movie. Zoinks, this is going to be a boring one, or so I thought. Not because it was foreign. I love movies like Triplets of Belleville and Kung-Fu Hustle, but because, again, the short attention span. But then something happened. Something about this film just clicked with me. And ya know, after the first ten minutes, I assumed, “Yeah, I’ll like this movie.” What I was not expecting was for this little French movie from twenty years ago to become one of my all time favorite movies ever.
Act I: Whimsy
So the first thing to note about this movie is the colors that are used in it. These warm vibrant colors that make everything stand out. Everything looks so warm, like you're walking through a story book. You remember in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, how the technicolor that was added to the Land of Oz made it have this strong glow to everyone and make it pop out more. It feels like that. Not as vibrant, but… warm and cozy. It’s not distracting, but it’s there enough to give it this style to it. And it adds to the film's story book-like narrative. The movie follows our title character, Amélie. This shy, asocial, but well meaning and friendly young woman who wants to help out in the world. The snappy comedy and the well meaning nature help to break up the rather dark, depressing black comedy of this film, like how Amélie’s well meaning but eccentric mother is accidentally killed by a man trying to kill himself, or the many sleezy back alley sex shops and just general disgusting displays of sex in this movie… Oh yeah, did I mention this movie is rated R? I think the French have a different view of sex in their country, but in America, showing a boob is a big no-no. I swear, many times I forget this movie is R rated, cause when you see a massive fat fake cock on the screen, you get whiplash, cause other than the dark stuff and the…. Penis, this movie feels a lot like a children’s story. But despite that feeling, this film is a lot more real than most movies I see. And it all comes down to the side characters.
Act II: Characters
Amélie is a lot more than just a movie about a shy but well meaning girl helping people. No, Amélie is a movie about people just living their lives. Yes, you see them at their lowest points, like Amélie’s hypochondriac co-worker at the cafe, Georgette, as she has the hots for this customer, Joseph, who records all of his words, is still angry towards his old fling and is… kind of a scumbag. You see her father who has closed himself off from the world because of his wife's death and worrying for her daughter, never getting to explore until Amélie gets him to go out and explore by making some elaborate plan involving his garden gnome. And no one in this movie feels fake. Everyone in this movie has their interests, their hobbies, likes and dislikes, their own weird quirks that make them feel unique, that make them feel like people. It’s why I love stuff like Deadly Premonition so much. What everyone else calls weird and “LOL random”, that’s just what being human is. People have weird quirks, people do things in odd ways. Some people like to eat the liver of chickens after going on a stroll through the market. Some people like to paint the same picture over and over. Some people like to never shut the fuck up about their goddamn writing despite the fact that nobody fucking cares. Hey, did I forget to mention that Heart/Less is coming soon? But these people, they act and feel like real people. And yet, despite them not being sad, they aren’t exactly happy. They are far from miserable, sure, some more than others, but they have no direction, no ability to help themselves, either due to a physical or emotional inability, no knowledge, or no motivation. And that is where the real beauty of Amélie comes in
Act III: Heart
I want to make it very clear that I rarely cry at fiction. I have this sort of mentality that you can separate reality from fiction and at the end of the day, characters aren’t real people. That’s not to say I don’t ever cry at fiction. It has happened at least three times in my life, according to my knowledge. Once when I got Legend of Zelda Wind Waker for Christmas after having not had it for years, and tearing up in nostalgic joy at hearing the menu theme again for the first time in years. Second was at the ending of Persona 4 since that was so close to my own friendships and having to say goodbye. And the third time was for a piece fo shit fanfiction that I cried to because I was a socially awkward, acne ridden and always sexually frustrated fourteen year old that had no idea how to convey emotions properly. I was an idiot. So when I say that it takes a lot to make me cry, I mean that. And in the first thirty minutes, when Amélie helps the first man. The man is named Dominique Bretodeau. A man who just enjoys chicken livers, but has completely separated from his daughter and her child, his grandson that he never even met. He’s a sad man, who is scared to even try to fix things with his daughter. But when Amélie delivers the tin box to him in secret, leaving it at a phone booth, he opens it. And sure enough, the memories come back to him, and he cries. And we, the audience, cry. Or at least, I did. I have no shame in admitting that! Not bawling, of course. But the tears certainly weld up. It was a beautiful scene. And it’s things like that that make this movie beautiful. Anything, just having closure, just having your life change for the better, is wonderful. And many more scenes of beauty follow. Amélie walks a blind man across the street, telling him all the things that he could never see, like children playing and the many foods in the market, bringing a smile to this man, this stranger, just for a moment. Bringing closure to a hotel manager by bringing the letters of her deceased husband, letting her know that despite never returning, he always loved her. Amélie gaslighting a local fruit stand owner by making him go crazy, even almost fucking killing him with electricity- Wait, what? Uh… yeah, thats a bit iffy. But he was verbally and even physically abusing his well meaning worker, so fuck him. Support retail workers. And you get to see more scenes with even the other characters interacting that aren’t Amélie. Like the friendly fruit stand worker, Lucien, befriending the artist, making jokes and just learning to paint together. It’s such a nice scene. Or hearing everyone at the cafe, the workers and the regulars, just talk about life, about things, is also a nice touch. This is just a movie about life. It’s more than just about being happy. It’s all about life. The good, the bad, the fuck ugly, all of that. Just characters going about their life, unknowing of the changes that one single woman can do to help. And hey, let’s talk about the lead character for a sec.
Act IV: Amélie
It’s actually amazing to see just what kind of deep character Amélie is. If the movie was just, “She’s a girl that does good and helps others and that’s all”, then the film would still be heartwarming, but the film is more than that. Because, again, as stated before, Amélie is reclusive. Amélie is asocial. Amélie had parents that, while meant well, did not give her the proper chances to socialize and thus, she has a hard time talking with anyone. She can speak to her co-workers fine, she can speak with her dad just fine, but when it comes to her love interest, Nino Quincampoix, it’s a challenge. And I mean a literal challenge of having Nino go around the city with pictures, phone calls, and all this running around game stuff, just for her to get a chance to see if he’s worth it. Even helping him with his own struggles on the way. One of my favorite things is that Nino has this desire to know who this man in the photo is, that he has been piecing together. Who is this intimidating man in the photo? And when he finds out, it’s nothing special. Like, at all. Just a repair man. Because really, it’s not about how grand the answer is. It all comes down to just having that closure. And thanks to Amélie’s kindness, he’s able to get that answer. But when he and Amélie meet, and she gets the chance to speak, she just… backs off. She’s too scared, intimidated, and just decides she’s not worth it. Amélie is able to bring happiness to others, but she can’t bring that same joy to herself. She wants that same happiness, desires it, but her own insecurities push her back. She faces the same problem that everyone she helped has, no motivation, no ability to do it for herself, only pursued thanks to a face to face conversation with the painter to gain the courage to go to Nino. And after a silent meeting, she’s able to form a relationship with Nino, and find her own happiness. Because yes, helping others find happiness is beautiful. But what’s just as beautiful is finding your own happiness. And that’s what this movie is about. People finding their own happiness.
Amélieis just a beautiful movie, man. I don’t really know what more I can say about it. It’s a movie that really touched me in a way I was not expecting. After watching all sorts of gore fest movies, movies with violence and action, horror movies where people get mained, or comedy films that are filled with jokes about dicks and vaginas, seeing a movie that is just nice that also has a hint of dicks and vagina talk but is just a feel good film is nice to see once in a while. Amélie would become one of the most successful French films with little criticism aside from this one review from Les Inrockuptibles, where some guy attacked the film for being an all white film with no minorities. Ya know, they say that the best films can still hold up years later, so it’s nice that a film that has nothing to do with race issues can have some maroon scream about race issues. Incredible. I’m only slightly kidding, of course. The film isn’t perfect, obviously. The jokes are jarring and the editing legit feels like something out of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World at times, but really who cares? When the movie's scenes are as beautiful as this one, as emotional and with characters as invested as this, it manages to stand out. Amélie is more than just a great foreign film. It’s a modern masterpiece.