Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain [Amélie From Montmartre] (2001)

(In theaters, January 2002) Who can believe that the director of Alien Resurrection would follow it up with a whimsical romantic comedy? You pretty much have to see it to believe it, and that’s doubly true for Amelie, a film whose appeal can hardly be stated in mere words. The first fifteen minutes are, sylistically, a blend of Fight Club and Run Lola Run—high praise indeed! It’s a story about nothing and everything, or more specifically about the gradual awakening of a very special girl to the world at large; how she relates to it and how she decides to act on it. Alas, the film then becomes yet another sappy romantic comedy, a good one but a sappy romantic comedy nonetheless, complete with a happy-ever-after shot that seems somewhat of a let-down in the context of the overall piece. The confused theme of the film is also slightly annoying, as if the film flits from one idea to another without central resolution or meaning. But that’s being overly harsh on a completely delightful film whose nature is perfectly represented by the astonishing direction of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. You may see it a modern urban fantasy if you wish, especially with the variety of slightly-fantastical effects used to tell the story. A good date movie, especially if yours happen to love dissecting a film’s thematic core.

(Second viewing, On DVD, June 2002) I think that I like this film even more the second time around. Now that’s I’m not expecting an ending more original than the abrupt (and unusually sappy) and-they-lived-happily-ever-after, now that I see the fable quality of the whole tale, now that I’m not too bothered by the inconsistent character traits, well… Amelie flows better. The two-disks French R1 DVD release is filled with goodies, the best being a wonderful French-language commentary with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Equally concerned by technical details, story points, actors’ performances and filmmaking anecdotes, the commentary is a joy to watch, especially once you realize that Jeunet is as big a DVD geek as the most obsessive of us; he knows what viewers want to hear about, and he delivers. It helps that the DVD is being released long enough after the film theater run that there is some perspective on the critical reaction to the movie. Other DVD highlights include a funny making-of segment and some oddball features.

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