“On September 3rd 1973, at 6:28pm and 32 seconds, a bluebottle fly capable of 14,670 wing beats a minute landed on Rue St Vincent, Montmartre. At the same moment, on a restaurant terrace nearby, the wind magically made two glasses dance unseen on a tablecloth. Meanwhile, in a 5th-floor flat, 28 Avenue Trudaine, Paris 9, returning from his best friend’s funeral, Eugène Colère erased his name from his address book. At the same moment, a sperm with one X chromosome, belonging to Raphaël Poulain, made a dash for an egg in his wife Amandine. Nine months later, Amélie Poulain was born.”
I don’t think I could be friends with anyone who doesn’t like Amelie. That’s how much I love this movie.
Wanda and I just finished watching it, and we both agree that no list of Chicken Soup for the Soul movies could ever be complete without it. Audrey Tautou sells the character so well that it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. It may be possible to make a good movie without at least one likable character in it, but it’s not possible to make a feel good movie without one, and in that department, Amelie succeeds in spades. It’s incredibly clever too, something which can be said of virtually all Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s films. His characters are marvelously inventive as they go about completing their quests, and I personally never tire of the shenanigans. Some do, though. Keith Phipps of the AV Club describes the whimsy of Amelie as “wearisome,” and Chris Kaltenbach of The Baltimore Sun concludes, “All Amelie has is the lightest, most insubstantial of souffles. And who can stomach an entire meal of that?” Ummm, sign me up because I can.
Having said that, I do feel the need to back away from my opening statement a bit. It was meant to be tongue in cheek, of course, but at the end of the day it’s all a matter of taste, isn’t it? I don’t particularly care for Laurel and Hardy or The Three Stooges, but their work has certainly been chicken soup for many a soul. Nevertheless, he’s wrong about their not being anything substantive to Amelie. The world of Jeunet is a world of absurdism (it’s French, go figure), but one in which the hero defies the odds and succeeds in creating his or her meaning anyway. Amelie’s father, presumably, will never know just how the garden gnome managed to travel the world, but we know it was Amelie behind the scenes just as we know it is Jeunet behind the scenes of the film itself. Is it too much of a leap by extension to extrapolate a third entity behind the scenes? That, of course, is up to each person to decide for him or herself, but watching Amelie might, just might sway you a tiny bit, and that, I think, isn’t such a bad thing.