Amélie (Blu-ray, Steelbook)

Despite being caught in her imaginative world, Amelie, a young waitress, decides to help people find happiness. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love.

March 28, 2024 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 film is as magical, mysterious and infectiously funny as any film I’ve seen in recent years. The French title is actually “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain” though distributor Miramax thought it an incapable mouthful for Americans to have to pronounce, let alone fathom, at the ticket counter. With a bit of the classic charm that befell the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart films, fused with an inventively modern visual flavor, Amélie will awaken every ounce of delight and wonder suppressed deep inside yourself.

The film’s riotous introduction — both dizzying and hilarious, it tells the tale of six people, whose lives will eventually change forever, through the fate of Princess Diana (not the way you’d expect) and the destiny of an old tin toy box. The opening sequence is shot in a fast-paced narrative vignette that will have you in a comical trance.

The film takes place in Montmarte, an enchanting, idealized, digital recreation of the classic Parisian world. It’s a unique modern day fairy tale, whose 23-year-old Princess Charming, Amélie, is a waitress at the local café. On the day of Princess Diana’s death, Amélie (played with wide-eyed enthusiasm by Audrey Tautou) discovers an old tin box of childhood mementos hidden inside her apartment wall. Intrigued by the discovery, she’s determined to track down the man who once hid this treasure here long ago as a child. She does so anonymously, and after seeing first-hand the profoundly magical effect she’s had on his life, Amélie is determined to follow her path to Sainthood, trying to fix the lives of those who need it most.

The movie deals with her decision to manipulate the fates of her friends and neighbors for the better (and sometimes worse), while at the same time pursuing her own enigmatic relationship with the strangely eccentric Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) — whom she encounters at the metro station assembling scrap pieces of photos he’s found underneath a quick-photo booth. She cherishes his harmless eccentricities, and it is obvious writer/director Jeunet cherishes and celebrates them in each of his characters. From Amélie’s father, a war veteran who reveres above all else a porcelain gnome he received from his military unit, to Dufayel (Serge Merlin), a painter who paints Renoir’s “Luncheon on the Boat” over and over again, unable to capture the essence of the mysterious woman located in the center, to Amélie, who constantly collects perfect skipping stones along the street to skip in the river, each character is a vivid statement about the free spirit of ingenuity and uniqueness. it brilliantly captures these individuals in their moment, and thanks to Tautou’s performance, the film comes together in a glorious tapestry of memorable characters and situations.

Tautou is innocence perfected. Her smile is infectious and loveable, and her cute, quirky persona is a full of surprises, as is Jeunet’s film. The visual effects are some of the most inventive you will ever see, and unlike his American counterparts, he weaves them seamlessly into the storyline. Jeunet, who helmed the outlandishly surrealistic visual treat The City of Lost Children (1995) as well as the forgettable Alien:Resurrection, seems to have finally mastered the art of fusing visual effects into a storyline. In one stunning scene (among many), Amélie tries to maintain her anonymity to her true love Nino as he walks into the café. After being questioned, she embarrassingly walks away. As Nino leaves, we see her literally melt off the screen and onto the floor, spilling out onto the tiles as her internal feelings become external reactions. She’s completely entwined to her world, as is every other participant, animated or not.

Video: How does it look?

I’m perpetually amazed at how many new titles come with controversy. Case in point, we’ve got a movie that’s been remastered in…2K and we get a Blu-ray and not a 4K. I’m OK with that, but it doesn’t seem to flow. Granted, the stylized Paris that the film takes place in looks positively stunning! The 2.39:1 AVC HD transfer doesn’t suffer from any thing, expect maybe a tinge of edge enhancement, that detracts form the film. Colors, as mentioned before, a warm and every scene seems to have a yellowish hue to it that gives the film a good feeling. A scene that always struck me was when Amelie skips rocks – truly amazing. Black levels are dead on target and the level of detail is amazing. This, to me, appears to be the same master used in Lionsgate’s 2011 disc so if you’re purchasing this for the transfer, save your money. It looks nearly identical.

Audio: How does it sound?

One might not think that a foreign movie, a comedy at that, would supply a fairly strong soundtrack. Wrong. Amélie has some very good moments when it comes to sound, but it’s not as “in your face” as some others out there, though the DTS HD Master Audio mix in en French (I’m guessing anyone who’s a fan of the film knows this). The general ambience borders on excellent, the dialogue sounds clean too. The LFE is present throughout the film and at times makes itself very known. This isn’t reference quality by any means, but I was duly impressed; you will be as well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Jean-Pierre Jeunet Looks Back – If you own the previously-released 2011 Blu-ray and extras are your thing, there is a new feature on this disc. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet comments on the film, its lasting popularity as well as some general anecdotes from the film. It’s nice, but I don’t know if I’d purchase this just to have the one new feature.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s thick French accent can be a bit difficult to listen to at times, but if you get used to it (or read between the lines), it’s actually a decent track. It’s nothing new, of course, as it’s the same track that’s been around for years.
  • The Look of Amélie – Just that. The production design, wardrobe and cinematography are all discussed.
  • Q&A With the Director – Filmed back in 2002, for the film’s DVD release, this is just as the title states – it’s a Q&A session taped at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles.
  • Q&A With the Director and the Cast – Essentially the same as above, only the cast is included.
  • An Intimate Chat With Jean-Pierre Jeunet – There’s no doubt that the Director loves his film, though he’s a bit self-deprecating. I don’t know if “intimate” is the correct choice of words here, but it is what it is.
  • Fantasies of Audrey Tautou – Some outtakes from some flubbed scenes of the star are included.
  • Cast Auditions – A trio are included with Tatou, Urbain Cancelier, and Yolande Moreau.
  • Home Movie: Inside the Making of Amélie – I’ve never been too big of a fan of these “home movies” features and this one is no different. But if you want to see a pseudo-documentary on the making of this film – here ya go.
  • Storyboard Comparisons – Some rough art compared to the final product.
  • The Amélie Scrapbook – A marketing gallery of sorts that has posters and the like.
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

Amélie was a good, but not great film. It was touted as an Academy Awards favorite and nominated for 5 Oscars. It won none. Still, I forgot how enjoyable I found the film and it was nice to revisit it after so many years. This new Blu-ray doesn’t really add anything other than a new feature, so until/if this comes out on 4K I’d keep what you already have.

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