In 3 words or less: Delectable, Quirky, Enchanting.
Interested? Read on:
Experimentalist cinema has its own distinct likability… and European movie makers have been pioneers in this specific genre. 8 ½ (Federico Fellini) would be an appropriate example of movie in which the Director crafts a story about himself, his work and how hard it is to be a well-respected and marginally understood filmmaker. Amélie is yet another example of a movie in which the Director puts forth a lot of his own personality and little quirks, which make the entire experience all the more delightful… whether it be the extraordinarily spectacular sequence of Amélie’s Mom’s death, or the extremely specific likes and dislikes of the many individuals peppered around in the movie.
In all my knowledge, this is the only non-animated movie (barring Garfield) where a Cat’s likes and dislikes are showcased with significant interest… Which brings me to my first observation on the movie… it’s delectable and exotic, but you should have a refined palate to digest this exquisitely gourmet meal full of varying flavors ranging from the astounding to the perplexing to the downright weird. You can remark on the sanity of a man who collects torn up photographs from under the passport photo booths and makes an album out of them.. or about the artist who has made the same painting twelve times and still isn’t sure about how to draw the hands and expressions of a plain-old girl holding a plain-old cup.
And yet, you come across much more mundane characters like a guy smitten by a waitress, refusing to make any attempt of getting over her (what he does in the café every day is a whole another story) or, the man (Amélie’s Dad) who wants to travel the world but doesn’t, because of an inherent fear. What is most remarkable about the treatment of the subjects is that Monsieur Jeunet weighs their fears, aspirations, insecurities and well.. quirks (I’m becoming very aware of the over-usage and probable abuse of this word in this review) with the same balance. He looks at these personal attributes through the same lens and amazingly, makes us believe that any kind of irrational behavior, however socially acceptable it might be, is essentially.. a quirk (again!).
Since the movie is innately overdrawn and wildly imaginative, it often poses questions such as why was a particular scene necessary in the screenplay (like the number of Orgasms reaching their climax in the city of Paris at a particular instance in time) or how does a particular character, who remains unreferenced throughout the movie after the initial mention, contribute to the Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain (this coincidentally is the exact translation of the French title of the movie.. mind you.. coincidentally). The only person who could answer this question is, sadly, no longer amongst us, although his work lives on through the ages and never fails to fascinate the children who come across it for the first time. Yes, I’m talking about Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) and his book “Through the looking glass, and what Alice found there”. I won’t be wrong in interpreting Amélie as a version of this book tailor made for adults… it has all the elements that would make any author who writes stories on wizards and flying dragons proud, although the issues dealt with here are anchored to reality (albeit its own) a lot more firmly. Add to that some amazing music by Yann Tiersen and you have an experiment that can’t possibly go wrong.
They say the true skill of an expert Swordsman, Pianist and Calligraphy Artist lies in their supple wrists. So why is it, that their skill is not attributed to their sharp minds and rather to an insignificant part of their body? It’s because the mind can create great compositions and plans, but you need extraordinary control on the hands which execute them. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to create a movie like Amélie without having that extraordinary control over the fragile nature of the protagonist’s fantasies. Projects like these have a tendency (and arguably a history) of becoming too fantastic for their own good, and eventually collapsing in on themselves due to the sheer burden of their self-created complexities. The remarkable thing about Amélie, is that instead of becoming an onerous and suicidal beast, it floats along like a butterfly, never failing to entertain or fascinate us by the whimsical path of its flight.