BY JEFF DICKERSON
Daily Arts Editor
Published April 10, 2002
No other film from last year captured the hearts of men and women around the world like the French film "Amelie." Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the romantic comedy has grossed an impressive $31 million at the domestic box office thus far, becoming the highest grossing French film of all time in the United States. "Amelie" is a rare movie with inventive filmmaking and real emotion.
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The story may seem borrowed; it has several elements from Kar-Wai Wong's Hong Kong romance "Chungking Express," released in the United States in 1994 with the help of Quentin Tarantino. "Amelie" even includes similar shots, but the stylistic ingenuity of Jeunet makes for an original cinematic experience, no matter how many similarities.
Amelie Poulain is a waitress in a small restaurant in Paris, spending most of her time imagining the lives of those around her while ignoring her own interests. The film strays from a typical romantic comedy with its fantastical approach to the tired genre. Amelie is a magician in the way she interacts with people, helping others find love with her unique behavior.
"Amelie" is most successful in appealing to both genders, where typical romantic comedies tend to gravitate more to females. The film manages to be cute without being too cute, giving it an infectious charm without a desire to cringe. Men can enjoy the love story without feeling that their masculinity was being assaulted, while simultaneously admiring the overpowering charm and visual magnitude of 23-year-old starlett Audrey Tautou.
The young actress steals every second of the movie with her charisma and magnificent beauty. Tautou is a synthesis of the girl next door and a super model, with a hint of shyness that makes her that much more desirable. Mesmerizing does not begin to describe the sheer power her smile has on male viewers.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet has a filmography as original as "Amelie," ranging from the big budget sci-fi-sequel "Alien Resurrection" to the bizarre surrealist comedy "Delicatessen." Jeunet is more than a director, he has scribed most of the movies he has directed. The self-taught filmmaker is keen on presenting the viewer with unique visuals that combine rich colors with hyper-kinetic camera movement.
"Amelie" dazzled the masses and critics alike, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Film, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Art Direction and Best Original Screenplay. Although the film failed to take home any awards, the popularity of the film in the United States has yet to fade away.
For many, "Amelie" is that rare date movie where both men and women can enjoy a romantic film together without having to lie about their opinions. The magic of the film stems from Jeunet's ability to expertly balance the humor and charm of the story. And for those who were drawn in by the story, the 1994 foreign film "Chungking Express" is an equally gratifying experience with its own distinct visual style.