Thursday, 11 August 2011

Places: France/Films and cinema: The Faboulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet).

Sourced from the Wikipedia page 'Amélie'...because I live dangerously...

Amélie is a 2001 romantic comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Its original French title is Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain meaning "The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain". 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.
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.

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 The Two Windmills, 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, 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, she undermines his confidence 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 her co-workers. 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.


  • André Dussollier as Narrator
  • Audrey Tautou (Flora Guiet, young) as Amélie Poulain
  • Mathieu Kassovitz (Amaury Babault, young) as Nino Quincampoix
  • Rufus as Raphaël Poulain
  • Serge Merlin as Raymond Dufayel
  • Lorella Cravotta as Amandine Poulain
  • Clotilde Mollet as Gina
  • Claire Maurier as Suzanne
  • Isabelle Nanty as Georgette
  • Dominique Pinon as Joseph
  • Artus de Penguern as Hipolito
  • Yolande Moreau as Madeleine Wallace
  • Urbain Cancelier as Collignon
  • Jamel Debbouze as Lucien
  • Maurice Bénichou as Dominique Bretodeau
  • Michel Robin as Mr. Collignon
  • Andrée Damant as Mrs. Collignon
  • Claude Perron as Eva, Nino's colleague
  • Armelle Lesniak as Philomène, air hostess
  • Ticky Holgado as Man in photo
  • Kevin Fernandes as Bretodeau, as a child


In his DVD commentary, Jeunet explains that he originally wrote the role of Amélie for the English actress Emily Watson; in the original draft, Amélie's father was an Englishman living in London. However, Watson's French was not strong, and when she became unavailable to shoot the film, owing to a conflict with the filming of Gosford Park, Jeunet rewrote the screenplay for a French actress. Audrey Tautou was the first actress he auditioned having seen her on the poster for Venus Beauty Institute. The filmmakers made use of computer-generated imagery and a digital intermediate. The studio scenes were filmed in the Coloneum Studio in Cologne (Germany). The film shares many of the themes in the plot with second half of the 1994 film Chungking Express.


The film was released in France, Belgium, and French-speaking western Switzerland in April 2001, with subsequent screenings at various film festivals followed by releases around the world. It received limited releases in North America, the UK and Australasia later in 2001.
Cannes Film Festival selector Gilles Jacob described Amélie as "uninteresting", and therefore it was not screened at the festival, although the version he viewed was an early cut without music. The absence of Amélie at the festival caused something of a controversy because of the warm welcome by the French media and audience in contrast with the reaction of the selector.

Critical response

Alan Morrison from Empire Online gave Amélie five stars and called it "one of the year’s best, with crossover potential along the lines of Cyrano De Bergerac and Il Postino. Given its quirky heart, it might well surpass them all."
Paul Tatara from CNN Reviewer praised Amélie's playful nature. In her review she said, "Its whimsical, free-ranging nature is often enchanting; the first hour, in particular, is brimming with amiable, sardonic laughs."
The film was attacked by critic Serge Kaganski of Les Inrockuptibles for an unrealistic and picturesque vision of a bygone French society with few ethnic minorities. If the director was trying to create an idyllic vision of a perfect Paris, Kaganski argued, he removed nearly all black people. Jeunet dismissed the criticism by pointing out that the photo collection contains pictures of people from numerous ethnic backgrounds, and that Jamel Debbouze, who plays Lucien, is of Moroccan descent.

Awards and honors

The film was a critical and box office success, gaining wide play internationally as well. It was nominated for five Academy Awards:
  • Best Art Direction - Aline Bonetto (art director), Marie-Laure Valla (set decorator)
  • Best Cinematography - Bruno Delbonnel
  • Best Foreign Language Film - France
  • Best Original Screenplay - Guillaume Laurant, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Best Sound - Vincent Arnardi, Guillaume Leriche, Jean Umansky
In 2001 it won several awards at the European Film Awards, including the Best Film award. It also won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Crystal Globe Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. In 2002, in France, it won the César Award for Best Film, Best Director, Best Music and Best Production Design. It was also awarded the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics's Prix Mélies (Best French Film) in the same year.
The film was selected by The New York Times as one of "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made." The film placed #2 in Empire Magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema". Entertainment Weekly named the film poster one of the best on its list of the top 25 film posters in the past 25 years. It also named Amélie setting up a wild goose chase for her beloved Nino all through Paris as #9 on its list of top 25 Romantic Gestures. In 2010, an online public poll by the American Cinematographer – the house journal of the American Society of Cinematographers – named Amélie the best shot film of the decade.


The soundtrack to Amélie was composed by Yann Tiersen.

Translation differences

In the English subtitled version, the concierge, Madeleine Wallace, is renamed Madeleine Wells in order to maintain a joke in the screenplay: in the original French, she mentions that she is destined to cry because her name is Madeleine, and goes on to refer to the French expression "pleurer comme une Madeleine" (a reference to the tears cried by Mary Magdalen). Her surname, Wallace, is compared with the Wallace fountains of Paris, continuing the crying theme. The English version retains the mention of Mary Magdalen but alters the joke with the surname, as the phrase "to well up" means to cry. In the English subtitled version, the concierge, Madeleine Wallace, remarks that her husband ran off to Panama. However, in the original French version, her husband runs off to the Pampas.
In the Region 1 English subtitled DVD when Amélie orders Nino to look at 'page 51' of his scrapbook, the subtitle erroneously reads 'Page St.', likely due to the OCR process for conversion. This mistake does not appear on U.S. television sets programmed to display closed captioning.
In the Region 1 English subtitles, Amélie says "But I hate it in old movies, when drivers don't watch the road"; but the French dialogue in fact means "But I hate it in old American films when the drivers don't watch the road." This distinction, however, remains in the Region 2 English subtitling.
At the close of the movie, the narrator explains " Villette Park, Félix Lerbier learns there are more links in his brain than atoms in the universe," while in the French there is the word "possible" links in the brain. The idea of 'possible' links is important not only for the scientific truth of the statement, but also for the underlying philosophy of the movie; that is, Amélie's fabulous destiny and that of the people she influences in the film is not predetermined but consists of a set of possibilities that are finally subject to her will.


For the 2007 television show Pushing Daisies, a "quirky fairy tale," ABC sought an Amélie feel, with the same chords of "whimsy and spirit and magic." Pushing Daisies director Bryan Fuller said Amélie is his favorite film. "All the things I love are represented in that movie," he said. "It's a movie that will make me cry based on kindness as opposed to sadness." Because of this, The New York Times' review of Pushing Daisies reported "the 'Amélie' influence on 'Pushing Daisies' is everywhere".
A species of frog was named Cochranella amelie. The scientist who named it said: "this new species of Glass frog is for Amélie, protagonist of the extraordinary movie "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain"; a movie where little details play an important role in the achievement of joie de vivre; like the important role that Glassfrogs and all amphibians and reptiles play in the health of our planet". The species was described in the scientific journal Zootaxa  in an article entitled "An enigmatic new species of Glassfrog (Amphibia: Anura: Centrolenidae) from the Amazonian Andean slopes of Ecuador".

Blu-ray release

The film has no overall worldwide distributor, but Blu-ray discs have been released in Canada and Australia. The first release occurred in Canada in September 2008 by TVA Films. This version did not contain any English subtitles and received criticisms regarding picture quality. In November 2009, an Australian release occurred. This time the version contained English subtitles and features no region coding.
*Now, call me biased (I really am) but Le Fabuleux Destin d' Amelie Poulain is my favourite film. FULL STOP. Much like Bryan Fuller, the 'Pushing Daisies' television director (did I mention that it's one of my favourite tv shows of all time?) it makes me well up with happiness and inspires altrusistic tendancies. Amelie, esentially, is a beautiful story about human kindess and love. I never related to anyone as much as I do Amelie Poulain.

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