Amélie (2001)

Amélie (Original French title: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain aka The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain) is a 2001 romantic comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Written by Jeunet with Guillaume Laurant, the film is a whimsical depiction of contemporary Parisian life, set in Montmartre. It tells the story of a shy waitress, played by Audrey Tautou, who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better, while struggling with her own isolation. The film was an International co-production between companies in France and Germany.

The film met with critical acclaim and was a box-office success. Amélie won Best Film at the European Film Awards; it won four César Awards (including Best Film and Best Director), two BAFTA Awards (including Best Original Screenplay), and was nominated for five Academy Awards.




PLOT SUMMARY

Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) is a young woman who had grown up isolated from other children. After the death of her mother and her father’s subsequent withdrawal, she developed an unusually active imagination to ward away the feelings of loneliness. Now at the age of twenty-three, Amélie is a waitress at Café des 2 Moulins, a small café in Montmartre that is staffed and frequented by a collection of eccentrics. Having spurned romantic relationships following a few disappointing efforts, she finds contentment in simple pleasures and letting her imagination roam free.

On 31 August 1997, Amélie, shocked upon hearing the news of Princess Diana’s death on television, drops a bottle cap that knocks into a bathroom wall tile and loosens it. Behind the tile, she finds an old metal box of childhood memorabilia hidden by a boy who lived in her apartment decades earlier. Fascinated by this find, she resolves to track down the now adult man who placed it there and return it to him, making a promise to herself in the process: if she finds him and it makes him happy, she will devote her life to help bring happiness to others.

Amélie meets her reclusive neighbour, Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin), a painter who continually repaints Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He is known as ‘the Glass Man’ because of his brittle bone condition. With the help of him and others, she tracks down the former occupant and places the box in a phone booth, ringing the number as he passes to lure him there. Upon opening the box, the man, moved to tears, has an epiphany as long-forgotten childhood memories come flooding back. He then finds his way into the same bar as Amelie and vows to reconcile with his estranged family. On seeing the positive effect she had on him, she resolves from that moment on to do good in the lives of others.

Amélie becomes a secret matchmaker and guardian angel, executing complex but hidden schemes that impact the lives of those around her with subtle, arm’s-length manipulation, leading to several sub-plots and episodes. She escorts a blind man to the Metro station, giving him a rich description of the street scenes he passes. She persuades her father to follow his dream of touring the world by stealing his garden gnome and having a stewardess friend send pictures of it posing with landmarks from all over the world. She kindles a romance between a middle-aged co-worker and one of the customers in the bar. She convinces the unhappy concierge of her building that the husband who abandoned her had in fact sent her a final reconciliatory love letter just before his accidental death years before. She supports Lucien, a child-like young man who works for Mr. Collignon, the bullying neighbourhood greengrocer; by playing practical jokes on Collignon, whose confidence she undermines until he questions his own sanity.

However, while she is looking after others, Mr. Dufayel is observing her, and begins a conversation with her about his painting when she comes to visit him one day. Although he has copied the same famous painting dozens of times, he has never quite captured the excluded look of the girl drinking a glass of water. They often discuss the meaning of this character, and although it is never explicitly stated, for Dufayel, she comes to represent Amélie and her lonely life. Through their discussions, Amélie is forced to examine her own life and her attraction to a quirky young man who strangely collects the discarded photographs from passport photo booths. When she accidentally bumps into him a second time and realizes she is smitten, she is fortunate to be on the scene to pick up his photo album when he drops it in the street. She discovers his name is Nino Quincampoix, and she plays a cat and mouse game with him around Paris before eventually anonymously returning his treasured album. However, after finally attempting to orchestrate a proper meeting, she is too shy to approach him, and almost loses hope when she misinterprets a conversation with one of the cafe’s patrons. It takes Raymond Dufayel’s insightful friendship to give her the courage to overcome her shyness and finally meet with Nino, resulting in a night spent together and the beginnings of a relationship.

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FILM SUBLIMINALS

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