Sunday, 13 November 2011

"Amelie". A Review Of The 2001 Film Now Reissued In 2011 On BLU RAY.

"…The Thrill Of This Rare Contact… Made Her Heart Beat Like A Drum…"

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's delicious "Amelie" wowed many hearts back in 2001 and has remained a warmly remembered favourite ever since. Now in October 2011 - to celebrate its 10th Anniversary - "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain" (its full French title) - finally makes its way onto BLU RAY - and I'm thrilled to say it's a peach.

First up - lovers off the film who already own the 2DVD Special Edition set from 2002 - will be glad to see that all of its extras have made the transfer to this Momentum Pictures Blu Ray reissue (see list below). The card-wrap on the outside of the keep case gives it a classy feel (and it's cheap too). But of course the best news is the picture quality, which is rarely anything less than BEAUTIFUL.

Some words on this because it's such a huge part of the movie. Jeunet was bitterly disappointed at how his 1991 film "Delicatessen" translated to screen - it seemed that none of the work he put in showed on the actual print. He took no chances with the densely populated and complicated "Amelie" - it was filmed entirely in digital - which meant that post-production could add or detract whatever he wanted with precision. The film therefore has a very deliberate pallet of colours - particularly GREEN and RED. It gives the whole look a treated feel - almost a glow - but it's exquisite - and subtle too. It's gorgeous to look at and was deliberately rendered to be so. The scene where Amelie walks in the attaching tunnels of the Paris Subway sees the walls look 'lime green' and the effect is beautiful (digitally changed).

There are so many great visual moments too - unplugging the aerial of a male neighbour who tricked her as he tries to watch football, her mother examining her puckered fingertips in the bathtub, explaining the sights and sounds of the market as she rushes a blind man down a street, skimming stones on the canal outside her home, her father examining her as a child and mistaking her excitement as a defective murmur (dialogue above), stealing the garden gnome, Blubber the suicidal goldfish, the book of discarded passport photos made by her equally odd male fancy (a wonderfully cast Mathieu Kassovitz) - all are realized and framed with a warmth that fills the entire film. BRUNO DELBONNEL received many nominations for Cinematography and won some too.
[Note: The natural default for the print is 2.35:1 - which means lines at the top and bottom of the screen - but even if you stretch it to 16:9 aspect (full screen) - the subtitles are still visible on the bottom of the screen (just about).]

Then there's the script. Co-written by the Director and GUILLAUME LAURANT - and told almost entirely in narration - right from the off its quirky, imaginative and on many occasions - ball-breakingly funny (a sex scene in the toilet of the Windmill Café between a jealous patron and hypochondriac woman is fantastically good). Being spoken in French too only adds to "The Big Lebowski" madness of it all as random events pepper the story of Amelie - a kindly yet mischievous dreamer who works as a waitress in a Paris cafe. The place is emotional central - peopled by a boss with half a leg and a man who bursts plastic bubbles under his table as he spies on a woman who spurned him.

There are two particular scenes of cinematic genius - first is when Amelie finds a tin box of toys hidden behind a tile in her bathroom wall put there by a little boy 40 years back. She then tracks down the now older Dominic Bretodeau (masterful acting by Maurice Benichou) and lures him to a phone booth where he finds this lost treasure. His tears and look of childlike wonder is cinema at its very best. He then talks about it at a bar afterwards with Amelie listening close by. His dialogue is full of heartbreak and wisdom.

Second - there's the elderly frail painter Raymond Dufayel (a superb turn by Serge Merlin) who hasn't ventured out of his apartment for decades (nicknamed `The Glass Man' because of his supposed frail bones). Raymond continually paints and repaints a Renoir classic - but never seems to get it just so. A local grocer's boy called Lucien who is belittled by his bully Dad - brings Raymond his groceries and goodies. There is a scene between Lucien (great casting in Jamel Debbouze) and the wiser Raymond where the older observer of life helps the young put-upon boy to vent his rage with humour - it's touching, inspiring and poignant.

But the movie belongs to AUDREY TAUTOU who quite effortlessly made millions of men fall in love with her - and pine helplessly for her presence ever since. There's that touch of Audrey Hepburn beauty and class about her - a very rare thing in cinema these days. She could boil an egg and guys would stand there drooling. It was her breakthrough role and rightly so.

Rewatching "Amelie" on BLU RAY has been a delight - and I'd forgotten how funny, charming and deliciously inventive it is - all the way through.

Do yourself a favour and crack-open this Crème Boulez of a has layer after layer of flavour - and I for one loved every soppy calorie-filled minute of it.

ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 (Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1)
AUDIO: DTS-HD French 5.1

Commentary with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Making Of Amelie
Director's Interview
Q&A with Director and Cast
The Look Of Amelie (including interviews with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Bruno Delbonnel)
Audrey Tautou's Funny Faces
Screen Tests
Photo Gallery

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