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[ World Cinema] Amelie Poulain: Deriving pleasure out of sweet “nothings” of life

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Shubha B

Entertainment Writer, RAD TIMES MEDIA

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How can a film that talks about the simplest things in life become an overnight success and an iconic turning point in the history of World Cinema? Amelie (Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain – original title in French) is one such film that proves that it’s appreciation of the mundane ordinariness of daily life that makes it “extraordinary”.

J.P. Jenet’s palpable “chocolate soufflé”, Amelie is a magic potion made of secret love, hidden passions, nostalgia, feel good gestures… all served with a dash of old world charm.

Amelie Poulain was released in 2001 in France and subsequently in Germany and French-speaking western Switzerland with successive screenings at various film festivals followed by releases all around the world. It received limited releases in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australasia later in 2001. The film was selected by The New York Times as one of "The Best 1,000 Movies ever made”. The film gracefully claimed the second position in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema".  Paste magazine ranked it second on its list of the 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000–2009), Amelie is rated 37 among the 50 Greatest Romantic Comedies of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine.

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Amelie Poulain with the very talented Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Jamel Debbouze in the lead harped on this success not only because of the very subtly yet aptly enacted characters but also the strange feeling of awkward yet forceful identification that we sense when we have an encounter with these characters.

The mesmerizing music by Yann Tiersen and commendable cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel and superb editing by Herve Schneid make it an artistic masterpiece that oscillates unendingly between surrealism and hyper-realism reminding the spectators incessantly about the absurdity that underlines human existence notwithstanding the sheer optimism that is the only way to survive it.

The film is a collage of Amelie’s life and her relationship with the people she comes in contact with. Amelie Poulain is a young girl brought up by eccentric parents who decided to home – school her, thinking that she has a heart defect.

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In all these years she became so lonely that she created her own world to cope up with this syndrome. She developed a mischievous personality with her imagination at work all the time. At the age of six, Amelie’s, her mother got killed in an accident, which is also a humorously unique plot, a suicidal Canadian tourist jumps from the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris and lands on her and the mother dies on the spot. The consequence is that the father, called Raphael withdraws himself completely from the society.

Amelie sets out of home at the age of 18 and starts working as a waitress at a café in Montmartre, which is again frequented by a collection of eccentrics. She is single and finds contentment and pleasure in the simplest of things, letting her own imagination cross all normative boundaries.

In August 1997, Amelie hears the news of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and in shock she drops a plastic perfume stopper, which moves a wall tile and reveals and old metal box hidden by a boy in her apartment when he was a child. She decides to find that boy and return this box to him. She makes it a mission to devote her life to bring happiness to others if that can happen. Following her own instinct she goes and talks to old tenants and concierge in the building and finally with the help of her artist neighbour (with brittle bone disease) in the building, Raymond Dufayel she finds the boy. As she hand over the box to Bretodeau, the boy now an old man. He broke down in tears by the memories it held. He resolved to reconcile with his alienated daughter and grandson whom he has never met.

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This done, Amelie is all set for her new mission. With her wild imagination and ‘never say die’ attitude, Amelie secretly resolves and tries to solve the issues that affect the lives of people around her. She does all possible things for ones she knows or comes across, like persuades her father to pursue his dream of touring the world. She tries to bring together people in broken relationships by becoming an intermediate, a channel between two for better communication…in a nut shell, the aim of her life is to make people happy!

The very introvert and timid Amelie while still on the extraordinary mission of making everyone happy comes across a quirky young man called Nino and realises that she is losing her heart to him. Chasing him in and around Paris and her courage to approach Nino resulted in a romantic night together, giving birth to a relationship.

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Different scenes knitted together in fragmented episodes transform into a coherent whole to tell us that postmodern contemporary society has lost itself in individualism, capitalism and mind-boggling technology. Amelie takes us back to a time and space where life’s simple pleasure still made a lot of sense and reminds us that making people around you happy multiplies your possibilities of being happy and content yourself.

Needless to say that such a powerful and moving story touches the heart of each and every one who watches this film and hence very easily makes it one of the most memorable films of world cinema.

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