Amélie (Audrey Tautou), a timid and loveless waitress, decides one day to do good around her. She thus constructs a series of ornate plans that will make a mess of the lives she throws herself into without their knowledge. From her neighbors to her coworkers, without forgetting her father, no one will escape her benevolence. Until the day when one of her "victims" will finally push her to take the reins of her own destiny.
Poetry and humor are the principal tones of this nice fable about simple people, spiritedly brought by the cute Audrey Tautou. Around her, Mathieu Kassovitz (The Crimson Rivers, Hate), Rufus, Yolande Moreau and Djamel Debouze come to do a delightful number. Jeunet's direction is often inventive but less mannered than usual. One follows with amusement Amelie's almost Machiavellian plans are followed with amusement, in particular the tribulations of a garden dwarf. This simplicity, so far from the usual depressing or pretentious Parisian productions, is a breath of fresh air onscreen.
All would be for the better in the best of worlds if it weren't for certain aspects of the film.
First of all, except for some elements like the video camera or the photo booth, Amelie could have taken place forty years ago. It's a bit surprising for example that there is no telephone ringing to pollute the streets of a city whose inhabitants now appear to be born with a cell phone grafted to their hands. The film seems to erase any trace of current civilization to preach a return to the values of "old France". To look under the apparent simplicity means an unhealthy feeling.
This feeling is confirmed when one realizes that the heroine is a manipulative slacker who grants herself the right to enter the life of the others to change it to her taste: She breaks into their apartments as in their lives. Does anyone have the right to get into the business of the others of this manner? Do the ends justify the means? Her vision of good is not even certain, looking at the romance that she creates between her colleague and a patron. The glorification of Amelie as a positive heroine is more than questionable.
Lastly, the framework of the film is too polite to be honest. We are not spared any tourist cliches of Paris, from the steps of Montmartre to the neighborhood bistro, on to the fruit and vegetable stands, with everything accentuated the sounds of an accordion. One might almost suspect that the Parisian Board of Tourism produced the film in order to attract more visitors to the capital. Amelie in fact offers the vision of a dream that Americans have of Paris, a process in vogue since the movie Chocolat did the same with Provence. The fact that there are already Amelie Tours taking place only reinforces the tourist aspirations of the project. One thing is sure, the film is learnedly assembled in order to offer the American fantasy of Paris, which should ignite the passion of the audience and to covet the Best Foreign Film Oscar of 2002. The whole thing seems to be as masterminded as one of Amélie's plots.
A film to be appreciated with moderation and whose more suitable title is Amelie of Montmartre, Paris, France.
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