© 2001 Claudie Ossard Productions

Amélie (2001)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring: Audrey Tautou
Mathieu Kassovitz
Cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel
Composer: Yann Tiersen
Year: 2001

Amélie was a huge hit in when it was released in Tokyo, where I live. It would be difficult to exaggerate how much of a hit it was—it seemed to be playing everywhere forever, and everyone was talking about it. While Casablanca and Citizen Kane are the most venerated  classic films in the US, in Japan it is Roman Holiday, which is especially popular with Japanese woman in their 20s and 30s. Audrey Hepburn is revered as an icon of style and fashion (but not really acting, interestingly enough) and her image is still used to promote everything from bottled tea drinks to bank loans. When Amélie was released here, Audrey Tattou was hailed as a living reincarnation of the earlier Audrey. Almost all French movies do well in Japan, but this was a huge hit which was advertised and talked about everywhere, and Tattou’s mischievous grin on the poster was ubiquitous. The overexposure put me off the movie, which I avoided till this day.  It is not that I dislike so-called chick flicks. I liked In Her Shoes and The Devil Like Prada, but the sense of whimsy that was used to market was too much of a deterrent.

It was nice to see Amélie at a distance of nearly 10 years helped put it in perspective. A poll conducted by American Cinematographer magazine named it the best shot film of the decade, and it just might be—the cinematography is truly stunning and actually serves to help tell the story, rather than being empty MTV camera trips. The overall story was just a bit too calculatingly coy for my taste, but I liked the anecdotal nature of the movie. I have never been to Paris, but it seems that one of the criticism that has been leveled at the movie is valid—the filmmakers removed all the litter from the street, as well as many of its ethnic minorities, in order to create a kind of cinematic picture postcard, a romantic vision that does not accurately portray the city as it really is.

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