“A often. One of those exceptions is a twenty-first

“A new survey from the European Audiovisual
Observatory (EAO) found that U.S. feature films account for more than
two-thirds of all movies broadcast on European channels. European films make up
just under a third of movies broadcast” (Roxborough, 2017). At the times of
Hollywood dominating European cinema not only in the actual cinemas, but also
at people’s homes through their televisions, it is really rare for a European
film to gain international recognition. And if one does that does not happen
often. One of those exceptions is a twenty-first century star film Amélie (2001).
“This film is part
of an exceptionally successful season of French comedies which have pushed
domestic cinema’s share of the market past Hollywood’s for the first time since
1986” (Vincendeau, Ginette, 2001). This
film was commercially and critically successful and won many awards, such as
nominations for the 2001 Academy Awards, four Cesar Awards, two BAFTA awards
and the European Film Awards. When it was realised, Amélie immediately captured the hearts
of the world to the same extent that the artist did much later. The film and
Audrey Tautou became instantly recognizable. Even today this film continues to
have a huge following as the highest-grossing French language film in the
United States. “The success of Amélie
Poulain is due to Jeunet’s ability to present his nostalgic vision through
high-tech mises en scène and an aesthetic drawn from cartoons and commercials” (Vincendeau, Ginette, 2001). In this
essay I will try to prove these points by examining them in detail.

Amélie is a French language romance comedy film from 2001 about a young woman
strangely enough called Amélie. The first and most important part, that makes
this film stand out and step by step led it to be internationally recognized is
the world of Amélie. She is a shy, Parisian waitress, who decides one day to
suddenly start to orchestrate the lives of the people around her. Amélie’s
character is so introverted, that she lives in her own world, where she does
not really have a contact with the rest of the world. Instead of interacting
with other people she analysis and observes everything around her, which leads
her to a feeling of being out of touch with reality, but keeps her really fascinated with the world around her, where she can find
pleasures in the smallest things, like sinking her hand in grain. “Amélie is one of those films that never stops reassuring the audience that
it’s on their side, taking them firmly by the hand and leading them” (Bonnaud, 2011) to the world of hers. And it is so mesmerizing and unique, that it
attracts even the dullest people. “Amélie delivers
merely a pleasurable fantasy of infantile satisfactions” (Dudley, 2004, 31). Director Jean-Pierre
Jeunet wrote the part of Amélie for a British actress Emily Watson, but
apparently her French was not up to scratch and she had scheduling conflicts.
So, the role ultimately went to the young and very lovely Audrey Tautou.
Probably, many people could not even imagine this film without her in it now. The
film is incredibly light and playful and the performance Audrey Tautou gives in
it complements the surroundings of the film and we get to know every nuance of
her character commonly told to us through an incredibly long narration sequence
that intermittently pops up throughout the film. Tautou runs with it with all
sorts of playful glances of the camera and has subtle movements that spell out
a whole load of emotion. This film needed a likeable actress for the audience
to really buy into the quirky world that Jean-Pierre Jeunet sets up and Audrey
Tautou passes with flying colours.

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Alongside Amélie is a whole host
of supporting characters that make up the microcosm that is Montmartre. And
every one of them seems to have a slight personality disorder that this film
only exaggerates for comic effect. We have a jealous ex-boyfriend, who records
all his ex’s movements on a little tape recorder. And then we have a tragic
figure of the “glass man”, who never leaves his flat. Throughout the film
Amélie sets about surreptitiously changing little details in their life that
she thinks will make their life better. It is not so hard to tell that this
film is definitely on the whimsical side.

Cinematography and style- Camera

It is an incredibly stylish
European film with some amazingly expressive camera angles and movements. and
also, a use of computer-generated imagery that could be said is incredibly
endearing. It adds a cartoonish element to the film “The principle was to do as in
Disney cartoons, a different idea in each shot, both visually and in the
dialogue.” (Vincendeau, Ginette, 2001) that
harks back to perhaps the early days of French silent cinema. “Amélie Poulain’s locations and characters
recycle the look and sensibility of the poetic realism that flourished in
French cinema in the 30s” (Vincendeau, Ginette, 2001).

“Tautou’s face is colour graded,
flattened, and often distorted by wide-angle cinematography” (Peters, 2011,
1042). The cinematography style, unusual camera angles director used is to show
Amelie’s secret inner world, the way she sees it and her strange quirky
personality. By this, you can see how seriously she is separated from the real
world. The way she is not looking at everything as a whole, as usually
protagonists do in Hollywood films, but noticing the small details. “The Surrealists, just like Amélie, used to
scan the movie screen, hunting for details unseen even by the director,
exercising what Christian Keathley has dubbed “panoramic perception.”” (Dudley,
2004, 35) In addition, to understand why she is like that we would need to look
back at her childhood. Jean-Pierre Jeunet used many close-ups to make a point
and let us notice things a viewer would not usually see. For example, in the
begging of the film, in Amelie’s childhood shots, close-ups were used, when
showing girl’s aseptic father’s tight lips. The same case is with her mother,
when showing how nervous she is with a close-up of her nervous twitch. It all
sums up to an understanding of why she became interested in exploring the
outside world, found herself imaginary friends and never went to a real school,
but has been taught by her mother at home. Moreover, it is interesting how the film
itself looks like a picture and has two different styles in it. “Thus the film revives not just
poetic realism but surrealism, Jacques Prévert’s poetic inventory, Robert Doisneau’s
photographs, Poulbot’s drawings of Montmartre urchins and Raymond Peynet’s of
lovers in Paris” (Vincendeau, Ginette, 2001). Director framed
the scenes in a way that they seemed like a photo album, which Amelie was
looking at, showing her introverted and special way of looking into the world.

What is more, Jean-Pierre Jeunet had an idea that “each shot must make its impact instantly.
This means there can be no extraneous action in the frame, no competing visual
features—”one idea per shot” being his motto” (Dudley, 2004, 41). To outline
his idea he used quite a lot of visual effects. For example, there
was a scene in the film, when Amelie felt so bad about hers soulmate Nino
leaving the café she works in as well as her life that she literally melted
into water. This technique is a good way of showing how devastated Amelie got and
how much a person can be hurt inside sometimes, even though you cannot see it.
Metaphor similar to this had a usage also with the mystery man. While Amelie
solved the puzzle, and put all
the pieces of his photo.

on to another special feature Jean-Pierre
Jeunet used to explain a metaphor in this film is looking back to life events from
an unusual perspective. For example, to reflect on Amelie’s up-side-down view
of life director showed us how simply she was able to write backwards on a mirror.
Moreover, the relationship she started to have with Glassman after years of
spying on each other showed how insecure they both are with themselves. He made
her reflect on herself and see how distant she and him is from life hiding in
their safe space.


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