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Rating: R (For Sexual Content)
Running Time: 129 minutes
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mateieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravota, Serge Merlin, Jamel Debbouze, Claire Maurier, Clotilde Mollet, Isabelle Nanty, Domnique Pinon, Artus De Penguern, Yolane Moreau, Urbain Cancelier, Maurice Benichou and the voice of Andre Dussollier
Screenplay by: Guillaume Laurant and Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Retail Price: $29.99
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Selections (17 Scenes), Two-Disc Set
Released: July 16th, 2002
A smash hit in its native country in France, it'd only make sense for Miramax to pick up the latest global phenomenon for United States distribution. We all should know how Miramax's campaigns have been with their strong list of self-made dramas, moderatly cost-effective thrillers under their Dimension line and of course, foreign flicks as well as indie favorites for awards consideration. So what turns into positive buzz of good movies soon becomes oversaturated, megabudgeted, critical-darlingish, audience-favored hype where those same "good movies" become overrated ones everyone talks about for a few months and is then remembered as some popular culture staple. I'm not a big fan of that.
And I'm not the type who judges a book by the cover either, but given Miramax's publicity and PR spins, that's what I sorta did with "Amélie." I was going to see it in theaters, but then it all blew up into some whirl and I came to think that it Miramax's choice foreign flick of the year that zoomed across with the usual critical raves and buzz about doing so well in France, so it'd be their baby to hype up at Oscar® time, garner the usual "Best Foreign Film Award" and win that, and perhaps a few other nominations (yes it got a few other nods in the creative areas, but lost the coveted Best Foreign Film Award to "No Man's Land"). I gleefully admit I was wrong about what I thought the film was. I thought it was a quirky little flick blown up bigger than it actually was, when indeed, right past all the buzz and hype and major marketing, it's a fun, dreamy and vastly entertaining film that holds up incredibly well.
"Amélie" tells the story of a young woman named Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou). She's one interesting girl, as the film opens with her childhood and her interesting lifestyle growing up, not to mention her intirguing approach (and somewhat humorous) approach to things. Despite the opening scenes, much of the film revolves around her as the young woman, where she is a waitress in Paris. After discovering a mysterious box filled with childhood treasures in her home, she vows (and eventually does) to try and find the owner of the box. Happy, she seen goes out and does good deeds for others. Despite that though and series of other (mis)adventures of bringing happiness to others, Amélie herself must learn to not be afraid to find happiness - and love - for herself.
It may seem like a typical character story and love story, but there's something very special and mystical about "Amélie." It's just a fascinating story, and something I love even more due to the fact it more or less indirectly deals with the power of fate and destiny (you've heard me rant on and on about those themes before!). Is everything already planned out? Or is a lot of life just chance, luck and conisidence? It's not just that which makes the themes of this film fly, but rather, it's about putting others before yourself first, what happiness means and its importance in our lives and perhaps most key, taking risks in the world. There is also some excellent symbolisms in the film such as pictures, the water spilling in a key scene toward the end and even the mark of Amélie's incarnation of Zorro. There is a lot of depth to the film's charming context. The film offers so much heart and a good deal of laughs, even.
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who co-wrote the screenplay with Guillaume Laurant, is probably best known to American audiences with his direction of the fourth film in the "Alien" franchise, and to art house buffs such as myself, with delightful flicks such as "The City Of Lost Children" and "Delicatessen." As I just described the themes and symbolisms, what makes that so nice and workable, not to mention refreshing, is a really nice and really interesting story to make all of those elements hold key and true. There's just something so damn likable about everything, especially the character of Amélie. There is a certain sweetness to her, but also a certain unique pizzaz to what she happens to be and stand for. Yet her thoughts, her wants and how she interacts with a host of equally quirky characters makes it truly outstanding. But topped with that, there is a sweet, original love story that does not seem quite familiar even if it has its elements. It's all beautifully played out, incredibly developed to give off a dreamy sense that is quite charming. There is a lot to the story, and I feel I've barely scratched the surface.
Jeunet's directing style for this film is highly creative, truly magical and wonderfully frenzied, as this is one of the most original films and some of the most ingenious directing I've seen in a really, really long while. Everything the film offers in its story and visuals are fully realized. I keep mentioning how charming and dreamlike the story is, but there's an amazing surrealist quality to it that makes it seem like some amazing fantasy or fairy tale of some kind. I loved how so many ideals of the movie and the characters are intertwined. I loved the masterful editing, the skilled camerawork, the dazzling visuals and how the characters emotions and fantasies were played out. The portraits moving, characters being worked into things being played on the television... a lot of genius, nice stuff is featured. It's all nicely paced, and quite warm. Masterful directing here right here.
The acting enesmble is uniformly excellent, especially from Audrey Tautou. Big in her native France, in the film she perfectly captures the character of Amélie: the sweet nature, her fun sense of humor and a certain sad sense of fear and lonliness. She shares great chemistry with the cast, and she's really just a great actress (I hope she crossovers nicely to American films). So there you have it... excellent acting, excellent writing, excellent directing and you get one excellent, magical and highly original movie. "Amélie" is a classic, that is bound to capture the hearts of anyone who watches it.
There is no denying "Amélie" is one visual movie, and this transfer reflects Jeunet's wondrous and magical vision nearly perfectly. It's not exactly perfect, but it's close enough. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, everything about this transfer is bold and strikes at you directly. Colors are vibrant and well saturated, giving off their intended look that goes strongly with the film. Detail is superb, and the image is pretty sharp for the most part. Blacks and shadow detail is wonderful, and I noticed no, scratches, blemishes, nicks, marks or any other little annoyances on the print at all!
If there are are any downsides to an otherwise great transfer, there is an excessive amount of noise and shimmering on this transfer which I found annoying, plus some halo edges on some of the characters at time, a good deal of edge enhancment and how sometimes the film's look smears a bit too much. At times, the image looks way too grainy as well. But while those add up, it's not terrible and is still impressive to look at. Disney sure is having a strong year with their live-action transfers, as they've really improved with image quality in the past few years. This truly ranks as one of their best efforts ever.
The film is presented in its native French language, all in a glorious Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This is one submersive, strong and like the film itself, enchanting sound mix. Dialogue is crisp and quite clear, while the blazing and finely tuned musical score zips all across the channels and makes nice use of the subwoofer. Still, the subtle surrounds of the track make this mix really shine. Be it footsteps, bells ringing, rain falling, wind blowing, electrical shocks, clippings of plants and the sweet, small sounds of the café where Amélie works at, there's a lot to like here and a lot to get into. The film got an Oscar® nod for Best Sound, and there's a lot of interesting sounds to behold as evidence through the film. The mix also balances everything nicely. Like the images and story the movie tells, the sound here is just as magical. Also included are English closed captions, Spanish subtitles and English subtitles.
Other regions got a lot of supplements for this fantastic flick, and thankfully, Disney has not duped its DVD friends in Region 1! This is a great two disc set, starting on the first disc with not one but two Audio Commentaries with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. One of the commentary tracks is in French, the other is English. Why Disney included the French one without subtitles for it's mostly English-speaking audience remains a mystery to me, but the inclusion of one in English is very nice. I don't speak or understand French so I couldn't tell you what Jeunet talks about on that one, but his English commentary is outstanding. Jeunet seems like a very charming, friendly and passionate guy. He has a lot to say here, and offer some fun jokes too (even issuing a small challange to find a certain actor in "The City Of Lost Children" and then to write to him). Jeunet talks about common themes in his movies, working on the set, praise for the cast and the crew, accomplishing visuals and much, much more, as he seems to keep his films cohesive by hiring a lot of the same crew and actors. He even warns viewers not to listen, as he says he'll destroy the film. He doesn't at all, he just breaks it down in an incredibly energetic and insightful way. Fans of the film won't want to miss this. This is really one of the best commentaries I've heard, as the man never lets down and keeps up with the fast pace the film offers.
Also on the first disc are Sneak Peeks. There are trailers for other Miramax films... plus the "Amélie" soundtrack and Miramax Gold (which show off an array of Miramax movies). The film previews are for "Life Is Beautiful" (seems to be a video trailer), "Behind The Sun," "Il Postino" and "The Closet."
Disc two stores the other goodies, and they are quite tasty. The first, The Look Of Amélie, lasts nearly thirteen minutes. It features a variety of interviews, behind the scenes footage and clips from the movie. Jeunet and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel talk about the film's unique visual look, what Jeunet wanted it to be so colorful and the two working toward that goal by discussing and analyzing the movie's visual style through what they wanted to show, tell and various inspirations. I loved the film's look, and this featurette was quite nice to watch as it explained a lot about the pleasant visual look the film offers.
Fantasies Of Audrey Tautou are a series of outtakes in glorious anamorphic widescreen which are pretty fun (lasting slightly over two minutes), while there are three Screen Tests: Audrey Tautou, Urbain Cancelier and Yolande Moreau. They are in full frame and are also nice to watch. Storyboard Comparison is just that, lasting a minute and showing off storyboards with their final film for nearly a minute.
Q&A With Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a twenty-five minute piece where the film's director answers a series of questions from the audience and from the moderator. This was held in January 2002 in Los Angeles. The feature is in full frame, and like the commentary, Jeunet is very funny and very charming. This question and answer session is very detailed and very informative, talking about the film from its origins to its final version. Nice stuff. The film quality isn't great, but this feature sucks you in so much that you probably won't care. There is also Q&A With Director and Cast is a similar feature, lasting six minutes or so and is also in full frame. This isn't as informative, but it's a lot more fun and a bit more interesting. Too bad the editing for this piece is horrendous.
An Intimate Chat with Jean-Pierre Jeunet is also in French, and lasts nearly twenty-one minutes and is in full frame. This seems to be made for the French DVD release. Interestingly enough, I think Jeunet meant "introduction" instead of "commentary" for M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense," since Shyamalan is known for doing work for his films on DVD but no commentaries. Anyway, Jeunet seems quite eager and seems to be quite into the DVD world. Jeunet more or less talks about the film, its humble beginings and many other things for twenty-one minutes straight. After the other features and the commentary, at times this is a bit repetitive, but I still found new information here and is surely worth a watch.
"Home Movies": Inside The Making Of Amélie is twelve minutes and forty-four seconds worth of full frame video footage set to music of the film. There's photo shots, hair try-outs and much more... fun stuff. Also included are Trailers (U.S. and French ones - the United States version is in full frame and 5.1 Dolby Digital while the French trailer is in Dolby Surround and non-anamorphic widescreen. The French one is more charming and captures the film more) and TV Spots for the United States and in French.
"Amélie" is not just your usual Miramax bowl of hype for awards season (which I originally thought it was), but a sweet, innocent and very magical flick. This DVD for region 1 audiences is better than one may hope for when it comes to the usual foreign flick. Featuring commentaries from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a fine 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, an excellent transfer that captures the film's visuals and marvelous supplements, this is a fine release worth adding to anyone's collection.