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“It’s a brilliantly charming comedy with a pace and atmosphere reminiscent of a storybook,” says VOX ATL teen contributor Justice Murphy. “But when watching, it was obvious that this movie differs from what you’d typically see today in the mainstream.”

Want to impress your cinephile friend? Watch ‘Amélie.’

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“Amélie” is a 2001 French movie directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet about an idiosyncratic woman, Amélie (Audrey Tautou), who discovers her affinity for helping people’s lives through unconventional means, but must overcome her reluctance to better her own. While there’s unfortunately not a dub available, there are subtitles on most, if not all, streaming channels.

On a base level, I personally loved this movie. It’s a brilliantly charming comedy with a pace and atmosphere reminiscent of a storybook—but when watching, it was obvious that this movie differs from what you’d typically see today in the mainstream, and not just in the quality of its camera. 

As a disclaimer, I think it’s worth mentioning that the comparison I will be making in this review isn’t perfect- “Amélie” is from 2001 and French, and it’s currently 2024 and most of the movies that I, and I’m willing to bet you, watch are American. However, I think it’s worth exploring different kinds of movies even if they’re less familiar or less new, and in my opinion, the differing contexts of media doesn’t make comparisons null or invalid.

So, like I said, I loved this movie! My favorite part was definitely its approach to telling its story. As opposed to something more cause and effect, we as the audience are often left wondering what Amélie’s plans are for her actions because of the miscellany the plot leans into. For example, in the beginning of the movie, Amélie steals her reclusive father’s garden gnome as the beginning of a plan to get him to travel more, and it’s not until close to the end when we learn of what she did with it. The narrative declines holding the viewer’s hand in favor of trusting our wits to remember what was said earlier and our patience to be able to hold strong as we wait for the payoff to Amélie’s actions. It entreats us to a slight puzzle, and kept me on the edge of my seat in an unorthodox way.

An honorable mention for the narration, a recurring feature that detailed minor explorations of the movie’s different aspects, from the characters to unseen action across town. I thought it was a very, very fun choice and reminds me of writing typically seen in a more experimental or artsy book.

Speaking of the characters, though, they were definitely another strength. Each one was engaging in some form, and “Amélie” spends just enough time on each person to make them feel real and a little cartoonish (in a good way). From a heartbroken concierge to a sensitive grocer’s apprentice, the movie’s backdrops of characters brings life and heart to the movie, and makes the writing feel more personal.

Now, I must admit that its mellow vibe made it easy for me to get distracted. I have a problem of pausing movies and forgetting about them for hours before trudging through the rest of it, and this movie definitely exacerbated this terrible habit with its pleasant-stroll pacing, along with the fact that reading subtitles is, well, a conscious effort. I think this is a fault of my own and not of the movie, but if you’re similar, or if the majority of movies you watch are the kind that suck you in with non-stop action and excitement, I would recommend watching this movie with a friend to maintain both of your attentions.

If you are planning on watching this movie with another, though, I think this would be a good time to mention the fact that there’s a pretty decent amount of nudity and mild sexual content, hence the R rating. None of it is particularly graphic, but I would recommend looking into it if you’re worried about seeing something you don’t want to.

Anyway, on that note, even though there’s sex and nudity in the movie, one difference from movies we typically see today is in the way it’s approached. Sex, nudity, and general erotic subjects are treated as normal and just another fun part of life rather than something super secret or even shady, as it’s often treated in media these days. This could come from America’s purity culture, which—ask any person not from the States—often treats sex as something unnatural. This approach to intimacy in the movie is refreshing- and often comedic!

Another, similar aspect of “Amélie” that was interesting and different was its approach to romance. Despite the mention of it in most synopses, it only really comes into play in around the last twenty minutes. Of course, it’s not impossible to find a movie without a romance plot these days, but I think it really is quite special that the movie treats Amélie and her love interest’s relationship as secondary to her personal endeavors. While someone who’s looking for a pure romance may not appreciate this, I think it was an interesting and pleasant change of pace because it allowed space for Amélie’s personal development and for the development of the audience’s understanding of both her and her situation.

The most striking part of Amélie, though, is undoubtedly its quaint method of storytelling. It feels silly and pretentious saying all movies these days are raucous and explosive in nature, because that’s not true, but it’s impossible to deny the recent saturation of the movie market with movies that are overwhelming with action and intensity. This isn’t bad—I love action movies!—but I think it’s nice to take a break sometime and watch something a little more mild. In my opinion, Amélie perfectly fills this void. It’s not like it’s boring or a drag to sit through, but the pace and storytelling is easygoing and a delight to experience, which is a little different from most movies you’d see today.

And what can we make of this? What does this tell us about movies/entertainment and how we should think of and consume them? 

Watching Amélie was a great experience for me, and I think what deserves to be taken away from it is a positivity towards exploration. I’ve always been wary of movie fans who preach about American, mainstream cinema being overrated and trashy, because I love a lot of popular films and appreciate “theme park movies” (in the words of a certain Martin Scorsese). With this in mind, I do think it’s good to have a palette of movies that expands beyond the first couple of rows on Netflix, because, like all things in life, it’s important to be well rounded! I do also think it’s important to pay your dues to movies that are a little older, as a form of appreciation for the art. This is by no means to say every movie you watch has to be some extremely niche film about the gambling scene in 1970s Nepal, but it is to say that maybe a movie like that could be worth checking out to give your palette something new.

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