There's nothing quite so pleasing as watching the shy and slightly awkward stumble into happiness.
After watching "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulin," I've decided to spend the rest of my days honing, rather than hiding, my timidities in hopes that I'll drift about in a lovely, whimsical haze similar to the title character of this film.
How do French filmmakers manage to turn awkwardness into such beguiling charm?
"Amelie Poulin," the most recent film by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, has been out in France since late April. Miramax plans to release the film in the United States with the title "Amelie From Montmartre" in early November.
As soon as the film is released here, every one of us should be lined up outside the theater begging the gods of all that is good in cinema for forgiveness of our summertime transgressions -- "American Pie 2," "Moulin Rouge" or even "Pearl Harbor." To atone, we should be praising them for finally delivering unto us a romantic, funny movie that doesn't make the viewer wish his head were stuffed with hay.
I will be there too, especially eager for the subtitles. But even after having seen the movie only once with my weak French (I specialize in the words "cheese," "toilet" and "Is there a supermarket nearby?"), "Amelie Poulin" is still, in my opinion, the best movie of the summer -- even the best movie I've seen in a very long time.
Jeunet, who is probably best known for his films "Delicatessen" and "The City of Lost Children," creates a sort of grown-up fairy tale in this latest work. He recruits the fresh talent of actress Audrey Tautou, who bears a striking resemblance to another big-brown-eyed Audrey that American film audiences know and love, as the title role.
Using a voice-over and pseudo-documentary style, Jeunet takes us through the conception, childhood and upbringing of Amelie. From the start, Amelie seems a peculiar victim of fate; as a child, her mother is killed by an object that falls off of Notre Dame.
Jeunet's filmwork is lavish and attentive, fitting Amelie, who grows to appreciate life's small pleasures like sifting one's hand in a bag of grain, seeing the shape of a teddy bear in the clouds or skipping small tones. These small, sharp details coupled with the film's rich color give it an almost tactile quality.