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:: Amelie

‘Amelie’ is the return of director Jeunet to quirky French films after his disappointing foray into Hollywood with the last in the Alien series, “Alien Resurrection”. His first two films, “Delicatessen” and “The City of Lost Children” told innovative stories, shot with breathtaking ingenuity. Jeunet even references the famous simultaneous sex scenes in Delicatessen with a bathroom moment of passion in “Amelie”.

Audrey Tatou, with a strong resemblance to her namesake, Audrey Hepburn, plays “Amelie”, a role originally written for Emily Watson. Amelie is a shy, introverted dreamer who embarks upon a project to fix the lives of all those around her, finding love for herself along the way. Tatou is beautiful and charming in the role, her face hinting at intelligence that much of the film belies. Her refusal to go after love unfortunately grows irritating as the film sags in the middle and plods along to its too far away ending. Several Jeunet regulars return, most effectively Dominique Pinon, who was in both “Delicatessen” and “City of Lost Children” and who plays one of the funniest characters in “Amelie”, an obsessively jealous ex boyfriend of one of the waitresses at Amelie’s café.

I wanted to like this film more that I actually did. There are so many charming quirky moments that they are lost amongst themselves, and the many ensemble characters remain nothing more than their eccentric traits. The cinematography is beautiful and inventive, with the special effects original and surprising, but they do not make up for a lack of empathy with the characters and an overly simplistic storyline. Particularly frustrating was the character of Nino, played by Mathieu Kassovitz, a talented writer/ director in his own right (La Haine, Crimson River). He is one of the few internationally known young French leading men and yet his character remains a cipher. He falls for Amelie for no particular reason other than she leads him on several wild goose chases, charming though they may at first be.

“Amelie” is a fairy tale, perhaps the perfect antidote to current events. It has not a trace of cynicism and all ends well for everyone. There are many lovely moments but ultimately the film feels like just that, a collection of moments, very loosely strung together.

Screening at the Kino Cinemas, Cinema Nova, Cinema Como, and Brighton Bay Cinemas.