A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.


January 30, 2011


I bought this movie because it had the name Jean-Pierre Jeunet attached to it. Because City of Lost Children is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Something bizarre and quirky and very French I suppose, which is just what I got.

There is much that is familiar about the style of this movie. There’s the storybook opening that introduces us to our cast of characters (providing us quick views of their likes and dislikes) and lets us know what kind of world we are in. There’s the subtle use of computer effects and animation to show us the characters’ imaginations or state of mind. There’s a lot of slick camera work and manipulation of the film speed to help tell the story.

The story is that of Amelie, a dreadfully introverted and private young woman with more imaginary friends than real ones. She’s a dreamer who decides one day that she wants to do good deeds and make the lives of those she meets better, but is still too shy to actually meet people, so she starts a campaign of doing good without being detected. It’s almost like a series of related short vignettes as Amelie helps all the various quirky people in her life. Still, she is lonely, and as the movie goes on she slowly begins to open up, meeting her extremely private shut-in neighbour and learning that she can make friends. She discovers a kindred spirit – another eccentric introvert – and woos him in the same introverted way that she has been trying to help others.

The world the movie takes place in is a sort of fantastic simpler version of our world. The town house where Amelie and her quirky collection of acquaintances live is a quaint, anachronistic place with door locks that use skeleton keys and a sort of Victorian feel. But people use micro tape recorders, video cameras and cordless phones with programed phone numbers. It’s a cleaner, brighter place than our hectic modern world of cell phones and PDAs, but is clearly meant to be a sort of modern day analogue.

The entire movie relies heavily on the elfin-faced Audrey Tautou, who plays the title character. Although there is an awful lot of expository monologue over the start of the film it is Audrey’s wide-eyed wonder and terror that sells the movie. She perfectly captures and emotes that dread that a true introvert feels when dealing with people. Her isolation and her desire to still interact with people is the central theme of the movie, and without Mademoiselle Tautou I can’t imagine this movie working.

And it does work. It’s a deceptively simple story about how we can touch other lives and make the world a better place. It says something about the power of dreams and aspirations. It’s a light-hearted love story about a pair of missfits looking for comfort and not really knowing what it is they want. It’s a playful fantasy – a modern fairy tale. As an introvert myself I can’t help but sympathise with Amelie and her complex schemes.

This movie is beautiful and enchanting and strange and fun. It’s a quirky and fun way to spend an afternoon, and it was delightful to watch it again tonight. It re-enforces for me how much I love the direction of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and it was fun to once again see him working with Dominique Pinon, and it’s a great introduction to Audrey Tautou. (I think whomever was responsible for ordering foreign films for Blockbuster must have fallen in love with Audrey as well, because of the twenty or so French films we had in the Hingham store about seven starred her.) Jeunet lives in a world of vivid dreams and imagination, and it’s a treat once in a while to be able to visit that world.


January 30, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , ,


  1. You know, I might need to see this movie again based on your review. When I first saw it in the theater, it grated on me to such a degree that I walked out. I felt like I was being clubbed into submission by Amelie’s perky elfin goodnaturedness, and the highly stylized world in which she lived never clicked for me. But it may well be that I was simply in the wrong mindset for the film at the time; with the insights you’ve provided, I might have a different take several years on.

    Comment by Jeff | January 31, 2011 | Reply

    • I could see why you would walk out – especially after the very heavy-handed first few minutes. I will say that the film mellows somewhat over time and as Amanda points out in her review switches from telling to showing, which is a little easier to take. Even so – I would say this movie is not to everyone’s taste. It is custom made for a certain audience (your wife comes to mind) and may well just not work for others.

      Do you think Marie will decide to see Tron Legacy again after we review that? I didn’t think so.

      Comment by tanatoes | January 31, 2011 | Reply

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