“I know [true love still exists]. After 30 years behind a bar, I’m an expert. I’ll even give you the recipe. Take two regulars, mix them together, and let them stew. It never fails.”
Amélie took the world by storm over a decade ago, making $174 million worldwide, earning five Oscar nominations, and winning four Césars (French film award). It’s a modern fairytale that sweeps you off your feet and takes you through the life of Amélie Poulain (played by Audrey Tautou, who also co-starred in The Da Vinci Code with the wonderful Tom Hanks).
The movie was filmed on location in Paris. You can see familiar sights, like Montmartre and Notre-Dame. The film put a few other spots on the map, a must see now for fans. The grocery store Amélie frequents by her apartment is called “Chez Ali” instead of “Maison Collignon”, but it sells fruits and vegetables as well as Amélie souvenirs. All they may be missing is Lucien and his infamous boss.
The cafe Amélie works at exists as well. Georgette’s tobacco stand is no longer there, but you can buy a cremé brulee named after the movie’s star and enjoy the ambiance with other fans. I did not visit Amélie’s neighborhood, so don’t take my word for it. There are quite a few articles on taking a walk through the film that would be a great guide when planning your Amélie trip.
When you go on your walk, though, you may have a hard time really imagining yourself in the film. This is because of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s alterations to the romantic city. Jeunet prefers to film in a studio, allowing him full control of the set and no need to worry about the sun (or lack thereof). Recreating the Montmartre proved to be beyond the film’s budget, though, so Jeunet was forced to film on location. He still managed to maintain control of his set. Before filming, he had cars removed and graffiti painted over.
Further changes were made post production, one most notably being the warming of the footage. Reds, yellows, and oranges take over the screen, giving the film a fantastically retro feel. Blues are almost unheard of and just used to contrast the warm colors. Jeunet was creative with his camera use and placement as well, pulling the audience into Amélie’s world (to be honest, pretty much all the film talk went WAY over my head. I’m not even going to attempt to explain it. If you are interested, Jeunet’s filming is a popular topic of discussion. There are plenty of posts and articles) Jeunet’s filming was met with some criticism, critics saying that Jeunet wasn’t filming the real Paris, but a cartoon version. Still, others fell in love with his Paris, believing that Jeunet brought the magic of Paris alive in the film.
Jeunet is not the first person in France to try something new in entertainment. France is the location for the first photograph of a human ever taken on a daguerrotype camera. Louis Daguerre took a photo of Boulevard du Temple, a busy street in France, using the daugerrotype of photography he created. In the photo, the street looks empty because the moving traffic wasn’t captured, but if you look at the bottom left corner, you can see a man getting his shoes shined. The man was never identified, but he stayed still long enough and became the first person every photographed.
France took it a step further and created the first film as well. You may be aware of the 50 second film of a train arriving; the one that, according to legend, sent the audience running from the theater because they feared the train would burst from the screen. That silent film was created in a coastal town of France named La Ciotat, but it wasn’t the first film.
The first film was created by French inventor Louis Le Prince in 1888. He films a group of people in a garden, the video being less than three seconds. It is still considered a movie and is considered the oldest surviving film. I’d like to think Jeunet was inspired by these revolutionary Frenchmen when he filmed Amélie.
I would compare Amélie to another movie on the movie bucket list, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Jeunet and Anderson each told a whimsical story, following the characters more than a plot. Amélie is more plotless than The Grand Budapest Hotel, but the main characters in both are equally captivating. Amélie was a lonely child who grew up to be a shy adult. She is a learned observer, and events following a news report on Princess Diana’s death resulted in Amélie discovering how good it feels to be a part of people’s lives instead of just a bystander. The scene of her discovery is a whirlwind of her feelings as she guides a blind man through the busy streets and describes everything around them. She goes on to help others, including her co-worker (though, I do have to question her judgement when she sets her up with a guy already stalking another woman)
Following the fairytale feel, Amélie does find love in a quirky man who hangs out around photo booths. You watch her struggle with her fear of being vulnerable and her desire to talk to the man (probably the most relatable part of the film). Amélie’s confidence grows through her new found friendships and you, as the audience, are cheering her on along the way.
The film is well-loved. It’s a romance not centered on the romance (if that makes any sense at all), quirky and weird. Boyfriend enjoyed the strange character development. It made the plot difficult to predict, a fun ride.
Next movie up on the list is Boyfriend’s pick. I have heard of the film, but don’t know anything about it, so there’s no telling what’s going to happen! In the meantime…