I watched this movie in my twenties and fell in love with it. I found it magical. Made me feel the world was still full of beauty and opportunity. Love, pleasure and happiness were out there for those courageous enough to grab it.
Just a warning. There are spoilers ahead.
Each scene was exquisitely shot in vibrant green and red. And I loved how it highlighted small details of pleasure and distaste.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the French romantic comedy stars Audrey Tautou as the shy, lonely, isolated young woman who slowly begins to open her world to people and possibilities. And it all started when her perfume stopper dropped and dislodged a loose tile that hid a box of boyish treasures.
Amelie is determined to track the owner down and return the box to him. If it goes well, she promises herself that she will devote her life to good deeds.
I tried to get my son to watch it again with me, but watching a girly French romantic comedy was the last thing my teenage son wanted to do with his mum.
I was lucky. I had forgotten the scenes in the porn shop – a stark and almost clinical contrast to the romantic imagination of Amelie’s life.
My husband ran away too. He said he’d rather read. Spoilsport.
Amelie manages to track down the owner and the return of the box is a success. Moved by the unexpected rush of memories and emotion, he vows to make changes in his life. Amelie is thrilled and her adventure begins.
I love so many beautiful scenes in this movie. But I’ll name three.
The gnome-adic traveller
Amelie’s father became more isolated and reclusive after her mother’s death. So Amelie steals his prized garden gnome and sends it off on an adventure.
We know this because the father begins to get photographs of the gnome from exotic locations. The mystery later transforms her father. It pushes him a little out of his comfort zone to the world outside his home.
The movie starts with small details of simple, unexpected delights. Fingers in grain. Cracking of a crème brûlée with a spoon. Looking back at the faces of people behind you at the cinema while the movie is playing. But I loved how Amelie collected smooth flat stones to skim it across the waters of Canal St Martin.
The scenes remind me to embrace little pleasures too. Music in my ears as I go for walks. The winter sunlight that glitters cold and bright. The way milk dances in my cup as I pour it into my sweet black tea.
The video stars
But my favourite is the video snippets Amelie sends her neighbour, Mr Dufayel, a frail old housebound man who welcomes her into his home. They are full of joyous, unexpected images.
Babies swimming under water. A runaway horse that ends up leading a bike race. A man with one leg who stops to tap dance in the middle of a dusty street. They were there to remind Mr Dufayel with his hunched back and brittle bones that the world was still full of surprises.
He, in turn, gives Amelie some wise advice.
The movie was filmed mainly in Paris. Wikipedia tells me Café des 2 Moulins where Amelie worked really exists.
We were going to go to Paris in August before the United Kingdom put France on the quarantine list. Anyone travelling back to the UK from France now has to self-isolate for two weeks. Not much fun.
So while I still wait to visit Paris, watching Amelie will have to do.
What simple pleasures do you treasure? Feel free to leave your answer in the comments below.