I think I just had something approximating a cinematic orgasm.
Amelíe is like the world's most tanatalizing box of chocolates. Eat one, and its delicious, scrumptious. It plays with your senses in every joyous way. So, eat another. It is exactly the same kind of experience, but in no way complacent. After 10 more, each twice as delightful and succulent as the last, you suppose that you MUST have hit your limit - that, in the case of a different, lesser box, you would be sick of chocolate. But it is not the case here. Oh, no. You eat the whole box, straight through. You can't help yourself. Only at the end, with your mouth caked in the remnants of the heavenly treats, do you feel truly satisfied - until the next box, of course.
My mouth literally waters for this film. My heart aches to watch it again...I must own it. I'm literally in Amelíe withdrawal.
What is it about this film?
Perhaps it's the breathless narration by Jacques Thébault, who rapidly sums up the most bizarre events (and there are many, many bizarre events) as if they were commonplace. Completely off-the-wall, non sequitir happenings get the same quick-pace treatment as the most significant moments in the entire film.
Is it the majestic colors, courtesy of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel? Surely that's a part of it. The whole film looks like an Expressionist portrait come to life. Something that's stunningly real and yet on the fringes of surreal...the very world that every dreamer lives in. Loving mixes of reds and greens are in nearly every frame...an odd combination, but one that works perfectly for this film.
One could put it down to the slightly unconventional plot. One could, conceivably, write off Amelíe as nothing more than Emma retold in the modern French idiom. One could also, conceivably, be totally off their nut. Yes, the film involves the title character, a solitary waitress at a Parisian café, meddling in other people's lives while avoiding her own. But the dramatic core here, is completely different. The message is about happiness and random chance. Some things just happen out of sheer coincidence that affect events for the rest of the film.
I think the success of the film, for the most part, lies in two different pairs of hands. The first is the director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children), who keeps the mood just off-center, and constantly reminds us that anything can happen at any time with the hyper-kinetic flow of the action. Plus, he redefines perfect pacing...there's no hiccups, no slow patches. Nothing moves too fast. It's brilliant.
The other, slightly more delicate, set of palms and fingers belongs to the lead, Audrey Tautou, who is perhaps the first person in my experience to even come close to matching the true delight that is watching the other Audrey, Ms. Hepburn. Watching Tautou smile is like watching joy physically manifest itself. Her grin is so charming, a little sly, and wholly captivating. Her manner and her grace haven't a match in the current roster of American actresses. She's like a throwback from a Golden Age - and I'm all the happier for it.
Most films, no matter how bad, have Moments. Bits of time where something memorable happens. Usually Hollywood films play these Moments for all their worth in the trailers, thus rendering most bad films even more useless, and softening the blow of good films. Amelíe is nothing but Moment after glorious Moment. It would be overwhelming if cinematic wonderment could be overwhelming...but that has never been the case with me.
I think one of the most brilliant moves in the film is that Amelíe's sheltered worldview is so peaceful and content throughout, though it masks a timidness. I wanted to believe that Amelíe could acheive her goals..it was difficult to watch when she sabotaged her own happiness of sheer fear, but I just couldn't turn away, could I? I had to see. And when it looks, for a moment like our poor heroine's efforts on her own behalf might come to naught...Amelíe imagines a sweet little fantasy of her success, and that's what broke my heart. I sobbed like a baby (it was in front of another male).
The last time a film stretched my expectations of cinema was in March of 2001 - a little flick called Almost Famous. If you recall, that movie currently (as of 07/02) is my favorite of all time. Well, it's happened again - and I'm supremely glad it has. I urge anybody who has not seen this film to go find a copy. I think I may have just found a drop of universal bliss in a 2-hour, time-release DVD.