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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/30/02

(a.k.a. Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain)
2001 - (2002) - Miramax (Buena Vista)

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Amélie Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A+/B+

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
119 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual layered (layer switch at ???), custom fold-out slip case packaging, English language commentary track with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, French language commentary track with Jeunet, preview trailers (for Behind the Sun, Life is Beautiful, Il Postino and The Closet), film-themed menu screens, scene access (17 chapters), languages: French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
The Look of Amélie cinematography featurette, The Fantasies of Audrey Tautou featurette, 3 screen tests, 3 question and answer sessions with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, storyboard comparison, Home Movies: Inside the Making of Amélie, photo galleries, 2 theatrical trailers, 17 television spots, cast and crew filmographies, languages: English and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: optional English subtitles on French language extras

"I like to look for things no one else catches. I hate the way nobody even looks at the road in old movies!"

One of the most brilliant, original films to ever grace movie screens, Amélie relies on its quirky charm and fast paced energy to tell an otherwise simple story. Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) is a young Parisian waitress who has longed for touch, and despite her having to grow up quickly, still has childish, naïve views of love. But she feels trapped and alone with an unaffectionate father and quirky work mates who are wrapped up in their own drama. Until August 30th, 1997...

It is not only the day that Princess Diana has died in a fatal car crash, but also the day that Amelie has discovered a small box of toys left behind by her apartment's previous owner. After she returns the box anonymously, and witnesses the owner's happiness, she decides that her purpose in life is to make others happy. Thus she sets out to bring love and joy to others - There's just one small problem. She has brought joy to Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), an amusement park worker who collects photographs, who wants to return the favor. Can she accept his love? Does Amélie truly understand what love is?

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, previously responsible for Alien: Resurrection of all things, brings an enormous heart to this story, but Amélie's strength is admittedly not in its story, but in it's execution. The film moves at a very brisk pace, filled with amusing, colorful details.

Truth be told, there's a lot of description in Amélie but not much story, and in that respect found it to be much like The Royal Tenenbaums. It's not fault in Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant's script, but it does keep Amélie from really getting deep into the issue that it brings up. But it is a fluff movie to begin with; France's version of populist entertainment, and it reaches it's goal - to just entertain - beautifully.

The video transfer on the first disc looks amazing. The bold colors live on the screen, without bleeding. They just seem to glow, and really envelop you into the film. The black level is really deep, without losing detail. And I noticed no film grain or transfer artifacts. The details are soft, but accurately presented from the film version. Definitely a transfer to show off to your friends.

Bruno Debonnel's cinematography is just amazing, using the same color correcting techniques created by Urbania, and made popular by O Brother, Where Art Thou. The color palette is just fantastic with its rich greens and yellows, and there's always just a little bit of blue in each frame. The cinematography is quite impressive and much more deserving of the Cinematography Oscar that The Fellowship of the Ring ("Pretty vistas") got.

The French 5.1 audio track provided is just incredible. Sounds whip by the viewer, the bass pounds away in various spots. Yet, this track isn't uneven, and seems to use the surrounds at all times, even subtlety. I should expect nothing less from Jeunet, who loves to use sound in new, inventive ways, as evidenced by Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. A track that, in my opinion, rivals Black Hawk Down both as presented on their discs and as Best Sound Oscar nominees.

Since Amélie is a French film, the disc also includes English subtitles and closed captions, as well as Spanish subtitles. With my limited high school French, I recognize that a lot of the dialogue and little nuances are lost to non-French speaking viewers, but the subtitles give a fine sense of the story and you are not missing a lot (as Jeunet explains, the subtitles lose maybe ten percent of the film's character).

Disney has jam-packed two discs with extras that, while not inventive or ground-breaking, are in depth and certainly give you great insight into the making of the film. Disc One includes two audio commentaries from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one in English and one in French. In English, Jeunet speaks in his heavily accented English as he talks exuberantly about EVERYTHING in Amélie, from casting to shooting. He is the only speaker on the track, but he carries it well once you get used to his voice. If you weren't convinced before, this is definitely his labor of love. From what I got from the French commentary, Jeunet is a bit more relaxed, but a lot of the same (but different) information is there (there are no subtitles for the French commentary).

Disc One also has non-anamorphic trailers for Behind the Sun, Life is Beautiful, Il Postino and The Closet.

Disc Two begins with The Look of Amélie, a great thirteen-minute featurette about the film's cinematography and color correcting process, featuring interviews from Jeunet, Bruno Debonnel, and Matthew Kassovitz (a good filmmaker in his own right). It's fascinating to really see the process behind the image manipulation, and to also see the raw, un-manipulated footage. For those of you who think that Amélie's look is only based on the manipulation, might be surprised by how beautiful the un-manipulated footage looks. Most of color correction is only to enhance details.

Moving on, there is The Fantasies of Audrey Tautou, an amusing collection for the actress's bloopers. There are also three screen tests with Audrey, Urbain Cancelier (the market owner) and Yolande Moreau (the landlord). They too are amusing, and it's great to see the three actors understand and get into character right from the beginning.

Next up are three filmed question and answer sessions with Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Jeunet offers different information in each of these interviews, thankfully. The first Q&A with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is in English, after a screening in the states. The second Q&A with director and cast was filmed in France, and also includes other participants from the film. The third An Intimate Chat with Jean-Pierre Jeunet is also in French, and is more one-on-one than the other panel discussions. There is a great wealth of information in all three of these sessions, with the most being in the third.

There is also an odd feature Home Movies which has some filmmaker following the behind-the-scenes of the film. Broken up into several segments, they are amusing, if not exactly informative. The filming of the orgasm montage is especially entertaining. Don't miss the Amélie Storybook, a collection of various production photos, poster art, storyboards, and photos of the Garden Gnome's travels - a nice wealth of photos.

Finally, there are the trailers and TV spots, which include the French and American theatrical trailers. Interesting to note, the French trailer does a better job selling the film than the American. It bugs me that American distributors are afraid to include subtitled dialogue in a trailer. Rarely are domestic trailers better than international trailers anyway. There are 12 American TV spots and five French ones. The American spots are quite repetitive and get annoying quickly, while the French are pretty entertaining.

Amélie is more of an experience than anything else; A few days in the life of it's main character. And it's a great character who lives in her kinetic, energized, fantasy world. With reference quality audio and video, this is definitely a great disc to test your system. Highly recommended.

Graham Greenlee
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