Miramax Pictures presents
Amélie (Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) (2001)
"In 48 hours, her life will change forever. But she doesn't know it yet."- narrator
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz
Other Stars: Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Serge Merlin, Jamel Debbouze, Claire Mollet, Isabelle Nanty, Dominique Pinon, Artus De Penguern, Yolande Moreau, Urbain Cancelier, Maurice Benichou
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content
Run Time: 02h:01m:51s
Release Date: 2002-07-16
DVD ReviewIf you have ever seen Jean-Pierre Jeunet's eerily off-center The City of Lost Children, you would have caught a glimpse of how the director envisioned a dark, nightmarish world populated by an array of equally disturbing characters. That film intentionally played like a really bad dream, but his Amélie is the antithesis of that, with an overload of brilliant color nestled in a syrupy, romantic story of love at first sight, and how the power of chance and destiny shapes our lives.
Amélie (Audrey Tautou) is a naïve twenty-two-year-old Parisian waitress who's own life has been somewhat less than fulfilling, and she takes it upon herself to act as a guardian angel of sorts to secretly help set things right for a number of other people she encounters on her daily travels. Along the way she falls in love with Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz, the director of Crimson Rivers), a guy who collects discarded photos from train station photo booths. Without revealing much of the delicately interwoven elements of the plot, the story is remarkably simple, but Jeunet's style of filmmaking is anything but; that is where the pure joy of Amélie comes into play.
Take a look at Jeunet's whirlwind opening sequence, where we learn of Amélie's childhood, told through a quickly edited series of bittersweet, occasionally tragic vignettes. Jeunet barely gives you a chance to take a breath as he rapidly weaves a trail of random events, eventually including the death Britain's Lady Diana, that will form Amélie into a do-gooder waitress obsessed with helping others, except of course herself. Her life is part fantasy, part imagination and part reality, and Jeunet blends the difficult transition between these elements effortlessly. In the world of Amélie, photographs may suddenly come alive and speak, and when presented the way Jeunet does, it seems perfectly natural.
Amélie is awash in reds, greens and yellows (most of it digitally enhanced in post-production), and the pairing of Jeunet and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel has resulted in something that is literally crammed with such a distinctive, whimsical look that I am hard pressed to recall when I've seen such a resoundingly invigorating looking film. This is a storybook Paris, one that is unnaturally clean and perfect, as if Jeunet plucked the world out a child's imagination.
Audrey Tautou is apparently the heir apparent to the long-empty throne once occupied by Audrey Hepburn, and is an undeniably cute actress with large, black eyes and the owner of one incredibly magnetic smile. Though Jeunet fills the screen with a number of visually engaging actors in Amélie, it is Tautou who drives the film, and when she is on camera she is completely captivating. I found her dialogue-free scenes to be her most expressive, and she mixes frailty and naïveté naturally.
Making a film like this work so effortlessly, one that has such an abundance of quirky and surreal sequences, is a delicate balancing act. Jeunet succeeds, and Amélie is a winner.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Miramax has provided a stunning 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for this set, and Jeunet's highly-stylized visuals look nothing short of excellent. Much of the film's color palette was digitally enhanced, and it gives Amélie a storybook feel. Colors look bright, and were intentionally oversaturated, with reds, yellows and greens dominating. There are really no visual flaws, and compression issues are virtually nonexistent.
One of the year's best video transfers. Excellent.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: The original French language track is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital as the only audio option, and Amélie is a film where the sound is almost as critical as the dreamy visual images; it is an extremely lively and well-mixed one, making full use of rear channels and LFEs. While the U.S. release lacks the DTS track found on overseas versions, the 5.1 mix does manage to paint an encompassing soundfield, full of often swirling directional imaging, that enhances the quirkiness of Jeunet's surreal visuals. In the commentary, Jeunet talks about the attention he paid to getting the right sound for Amélie, and simple things like Nino rubbing his finger across some spilled sugar are reproduced crisply here.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Miramax Gold, Life Is Beautiful, Il Postino, Behind The Sun, The Closet
12 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Extras Review: The extras on this two-disc set from Miramax are really proverbial frosting on the cake, with not only a Jeunet commentary (actually two, if you're bilingual), but a smattering of casually informative segments that add to the enjoyment of the film without dissecting it too much.
The film includes easy to read subtitles in English and Spanish, as well as English closed captioning.
In addition to the feature film, Disc 1 houses a pair of full-length, scene-specific commentaries from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, available in either English or French. Oddly enough, neither are mentioned on the backcover, but rest assured they are there. Jeunet's heavily-accented English is good enough that his comments are generally easy to understand, and only a few times did he seem to be grasping for the proper phrasing. The track is light in tone, and he refrains from getting overly technical, and includes more than a few production anecdotes that were really funny. His comments, in his words, serve to "destroy the poetry" of the film, though I didn't find that to be the case at all. Much of the track is spent dissecting scene construction, especially the extensive digital color correction and enhancements done to give the film its distinctive look. For gaffe nuts, Jeunet points out a few inconsistencies in Amélie's haircut, at one point referring to her as a "wet cat." As I don't speak French, I can't comment on the similarities (or differences, for that matter) between the two tracks.
Disc 1 concludes with a set of trailers for an assortment of foreign titles (Life Is Beautiful, Il Postino, Behind The Sun, The Closet) as well as something called Miramax Gold, which is essentially a trailer of trailers.
The Look of Amélie (12m:47s)
Here we learn how Jeunet tried to "modify reality," as he, Mathieu Kassovitz and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel shed light on how they created the unique Amélie look. Despite the comparatively brief input from Jeunet, this is really Delbonnel's piece, and his comments with regard to the use of color, as well as digital color enhancement, make this an extremely worthwhile piece. Watching the film a second time, I found it fun to look for the various ways Delbonnel used color to accent certain scenes, and how Jeunet used the lack of camera movement to give certain moments more dramatic impact.
Fantasies of Audrey Tautou (02m:07s)
Despite the enticing title, this is simply a quick collection of widescreen flubs and outtakes by Tautou. Normally I'm not a big fan of outtakes, but she's so cute, I could watch her do anything.
Audition segments fascinate me for some reason, and this far too short collection features a long-haired Tautou being deftly overshadowed by a terrifically moving read from Yolande Moreau in the scene where she reads the letter from her dead husband. The segment is divided as follows:
Audrey Tautou (01m:57s)
Urbain Cancelier (:37s)
Yolande Moreau (03m:50s)
Q & A With Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (24m:33s)
Recorded at a theater in Los Angeles in January 2002, this piece is a slightly grainy, full-frame segment where Jeunet fields audience questions about various production elements and influences, whether it be sex or Truffaut references, for Amélie.
Q & A With Director and Cast (05m:54s)
This one is in French, with English subtitles, and it features Jeunet, Kassovitz, Tautou and Jamel Debbouze chatting in a theater in front of a group of fans, answering questions about the production. Tautou is virtually silent, with Jeunet and Kassovitz providing most of the content.
Storyboard Comparison (:56s)
As he pointed out in one of the featurettes, Jeunet painstakingly storyboarded his film, to reduce any editing problems. This brief scene, under a minute, shows how close his storyboards were to the final product, using the scene where Amélie rides the funfair spookhouse ride as an example.
An Intimate Chat With Jean-Pierre Jeunet (20m:46s)
In French with English subtitles, Jeunet speaks from the comfort of an overstuffed chair about how Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves) almost landed the Tautou role which, but for the lack of the ability to speak French, would have been hers. The title of the film itself went through a few iterations, and Jeunet addresses the origin of the story. The infamous pig lamp appears behind him as he talks.
Home Movie: Inside the Making of Amélie (12m:45s)
Here's a cute concept, perfectly matched to the light tone of the film. It's a largely dialogue-free segment of various behind-the-scenes footage, set to the beautiful Yann Tiersen accordian score, and is split into a few different sections. We see the various test shots of Amélie's hair, the people used for the photos in Nino's book, as well as some test production shots done by Jeunet and Delbonnel. The piece wraps with a few highlights of shooting the "orgasm scene," and a set of weirdly morphed photos.
Trailers and TV Spots
In addition to a U.S. and French theatrical trailer, there are a number of assorted television spots (7 U.S. and 5 French). It's interesting to see how the stateside television marketing campaign (with the exception of the marvelous theatrical trailer) pales next to the way the film was sold to French audiences.
The Amélie Scrapbook
This is set of various photos, with the ability to zoom-in, divided into four sections:
French Poster Concepts
The Garden Gnome's Travels (another cute idea that is an extension of the film's magical vibe, which is the full set of the gnome's travel photos)
Disc Two also includes cast and crew filmographies.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsJeunet's dream-like film is chock full of his typically imaginative visuals, and the way he propels the characters along their respective paths is unpredictably refreshing. Nearly every frame is jammed with an abundance color and detail, and the blend of surreal imagery makes this a remarkable journey.
Miramax has come up with one of the "must own" 2-disc sets of the year here, and even the absence of a DTS track (something that is found on European versions) can do little to diminish Amélie's impact.
Amélie is one of the year's best, and as such it is highly, highly, highly recommended.
Rich Rosell 2002-07-29