Amélie (2001)

I know I said that this project was about watching movies that I hadn’t seen before, but I think an amendment must be made. Woody Allen, when asked if he believed more in learning by oneself as opposed to in school, once said:

Absolutely. It’s socratic. It enters through a different opening in your body. For instance, in order to be a jazz musician, you have to listen and listen and listen to a lot of jazz. And that’s an act of love. You don’t think, I’m listening to study it. You just listen because you love it. And you love it, and love it … and gradually, you learn.

I watch film because I love it. And I love it, and love it, and will continue to do so. Through this passion I intend to learn. This includes films I may have seen before, as repetition gives you a better understanding of the material.

And now that I have sufficiently justified this little cheat in my cinematic education, lets discuss Amélie, shall we?

Amélie is one of the most well rounded films I’ve ever seen. It’s romantic without making you gag, the score is positively infectious, the cinematography is stunning, the humor is subtle yet effective, the acting spot on and the writing and direction simply sublime. It is as delectable a film as the decadent créme brulé Amélie delights in cracking with the tip of her spoon.

Tautou plays the perfect French Emma; a hopeless romantic about the zest everyone should have for life, who desires above all else to seek justice for wrong doings, and to help the kind at heart. She cares so deeply about enriching the lives of others that she puts her own happiness on the back-burner.

One of her closest companions, Monsieur Raymond Dufayel (aka Glass Man), can see her putting herself last. “Luck is like the Tour de France: you wait, and it flashes past you. You have to catch it while you can.” He encourages her, ever so subtly, to, essentially, grab life by the short and curlies.

So content to be alone, having grown up a home-schooled outsider with no friends but those of her imagination, Amélie begins to slip through the cracks of her own life. Until Nino.

That’s what’s so beautiful about Amélie: It’s about love, but not as an all-mighty savior. Her life is a relatively complete one, with friends, family, and acquaintences. Most importantly it is an independent life, always filled with love. Most notably her love of life and all its possible quirks, and her love of others. But she’s spent so much time playing games that her one chance to find romance, potentially in her entire life, is passing her by. Having spent so much of her young life alone she has no idea what to do about this.

The meddlesome ways that helped countless others wind up coming back in her favor, as friends begin to do for her as she has selflessly done for them. “If you let this chance go by”, says Dufayel, “eventually your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So go get him, for Pete’s sake!”

Love doesn’t solve everything. It isn’t a cure for life’s woes, and it sure as hell doesn’t make you a more complete person. It’s the final ingredient, the cherry on top of an otherwise well-rounded life.

That’s why Amélie works so wonderfully. It neither pretends love solves all, nor does it allude that it’s completely frivolous. For some it’s more important than it may be for others, but for dreamers like Nino and Amélie, it’s almost a fundamental requirement for a happy life. (Again, note, it’s the cherry on top, not the entire sundae.)

Amélie is enchanting, heartwarming, delightful, and entertaining. The sum of its parts make a truly wonderful film, and a touching story. It’s pure joy on celluloid, plain and simple.

This post was originally published on my tumblr on August 23, 2011.