Amelie is a film that pours off the screen and washes you with the delicious colours its director and cinematographer saturate each scene. The sound creates a nostalgia in you for memories you do not even possess. This is a fable that paradoxically allows us to look into childhood with at once the knowing eyes of adulthood, and the certainty of our imagination. It is in love with cinema.
The plot is simple, following a small portion of Amelie's (Audrey Tautou) life in Montmartre, Paris, where she attempts to improve the lives of those around her with unorthodox means, in a way of avoiding confronting her own. Each simple action is woven from captivating detail and eccentric delight.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who directed and co-wrote, forged a style that has been emulated time and again since. Each character is introduced with snippets of detail about their life and loves, accompanied by illustrations drawn on our screens. Michael Sowa's art comes to life from paintings and figurines, in a way we would like to suppose a child would anthropomorphise the world about them. Wes Anderson's pictures also add moments of surreal animation that enable you to believe in fairytales.
The humour is not lost in the subtitles, with more nuances noticed in each viewing. Amelie at one point hands some money to a beggar, who responds "Sorry madam, I don't work on Sundays".
Some have accused the film of being too much of an unreal, picture postcard of Parisian life, but along with the unabashed romanticism lies shots of the seedy side of Montmartre. Anyone who has visited will be aware that turning one corner will lead you into the red light district. This is not glossed over, and yet is somehow imbued with the same glow and wit as the rest of the tale.
Although the story is unashamedly uplifting, it does not feel the necessity to tie up every lose end and create happy endings for every character. This is definately to the film's credit, letting your mind wander amongst the possibilities. It also manages to avoid displaying iconic landmarks in each shot. The note perfect frame composition instead invites you to see more of the city than most American ventures into foreign capitals, we follow the lives of Parisians, we see where there own memories emerge from, not a view from an open top bus tour.
If I can persuade one person who is normally put off by subtitles, then my mission has been successful. This is essential viewing, and more than once. Do not let it become a film you always mean to watch, it will reward your trust in its storytelling endlessly.