Monday, October 5, 2015

The Top 100: Amelie

The Top 100 is a blog series where I rewatch and rerank the movies that were in my Flickchart top 100 at the beginning of the challenge. I'm watching them in a random order to be as unbiased as possible in terms of reranking.

This week I rewatched Amelie, originally at #49 on my chart. That's awfully high for a movie I only saw once ten years ago. So it was about time I rewatched this and determined whether it deserve to be in my top 50 of all time.

Amelie is the story of a young woman who grows up very isolated and decides, as an adult, to try to make other people's lives better, even though she feels in many ways she can't relate to them. That's definitely a very relatable premise to me as someone who has often felt "outside" of the rest of the world, socially. As always, we'll begin my review with my live-blogging... which, admittedly, I didn't do much of. I didn't have that many thoughts on this movie as compared to past rewatches.

  • The opening credits make it seem like it's going to be a much darker movie than it actually is. Huh.
  • First time I saw this I knew nothing about Jeunet.  Now I can see his touches in all of this movie.
  • The first significant dialogue from characters happens 12 minutes in.
  • The use of sound in this is interesting. The silence after so much chatter felt very profound.
  • This is very meandering. But what a fascinating cast of characters to meander with.
  • This isn't a great sign. I'm only 45 minutes in and feel done with the movie.
  • I'm not tweeting much because I don't have that much to say. The movie is interesting but definitely not wowing me like when I was 18.
  • At the time I would have identified much more strongly than I do now with Amelie's friendlessness and lack of social understanding.
  • I really enjoy this "only two possibilities for him being late" sequence. It is delightful.
  • I'd forgotten the answer of the mysterious photo booth man.

And that's the extent of my recorded thoughts as I watched the movie. So let's delve into my official rewatch review.

Like other Jeunet films I've seen, this movie uses over-the-top dramatic acting and camera shots and effects to convey a bit more fantastical look at the world. In City of Lost Children, this was more ominous, as the entire world felt a bit unsafe. In Amelie, it's more whimsical -- the characters here are not threatening, but amusing, and we, along with Amelie, see them from the outside looking in without getting a very strong understanding of who they are. Just snapshots. But I'm not sure a lot of these characters would hold up to deeper scrutiny, so it's just as well we only see glimpses of them.

Where this film does capture me is in the latter half, where Amelie's extreme shyness continually keeps her from meeting the man who she is so drawn to. She contrives puzzle after puzzle leading him to her, only to back out at the last minute and slip a note into his pocket or his book into his bag instead without ever making actual contact. And the final scenes with Amelie and Nino racing around on his motorcycle are truly beautiful, giving a sense that these two odd ducks have finally found their perfect partner, someone who accepts who they are and, for Amelie, will maybe be the first person to actually know who they are.

That is a lovely and, to me, compelling concept, but the rest of the movie isn't quite as delightful to watch. Like an ensemble film, some of the stories are more interesting than others. I loved Lucien, the slow-minded fruitseller who took a constant stream of verbal abuse from his boss. I liked the garden gnome who traveled the world. I liked the mystery of the man in the photo booths and the reveal of the answer. But I was uninterested (and occasionally disturbed) by the stalker ex-boyfriend. I didn't care about the failed writer or the woman whose husband left her. And Amelie herself didn't click for me until about the halfway point.

I remember being wowed by the visuals the first time I saw it, and that didn't happen this time either. The muted colors and unusual camera angles made the movie feel darker than I wanted it to feel. It fit perfectly with the melancholy opening, but once Amelie had grown up and moved on, the darker visual tone stayed. Maybe it was showing us how her upbringing still lived her life for her, but to me the visuals seemed mismatched to the story.

This definitely isn't a bad movie. It's very enjoyable. Amelie is a uniquely conveyed character, and most of the stories are fun to watch, and the ending is gorgeous. But it's the first one in this challenge where I didn't have any "wow" moments. Not a single line or scene that really blew me away. Maybe it was a movie that spoke to me back in my late teens, but it appears it doesn't now.

With all that said, I'm sure it's not going to stay at #49 on my chart (that would be incorrect), but let's see where it does end up landing.

vs. The Circus (1928) - A Charlie Chaplin flick I don't remember much about, except I think I liked it. However, I *know* I liked Amelie, so it wins this one.

vs. Rurouni Kenshin (2012) - I think Amelie will still take this one because its story is told in a more unique way. I liked Rurouni Kenshin thematically and visually, but Amelie's quirkiness is just a tad bit more enticing to me.

vs. Whiplash (2014) - I loved Whiplash, especially its electrifying final scene. Nothing in Amelie held my attention the way those last 20 minutes did. Whiplash wins, dropping Amelie to #299.

vs. Schindler's List (1993) - I'm really glad this matchup happened, because I was mentally comparing Amelie to Schindler, as the other movie thus far in this challenge to drop drastically. (As well as the only other one so far I'd only seen one time.) But Schindler did have some wow moments. It was flawed, but there were some breathtaking scenes, and I didn't find scenes of that caliber in Amelie. Schindler wins this round, dropping Amelie to #447.

vs. Roxanne (1987) - I probably SHOULD choose Amelie here. It's clearly a more artistic movie. But I am so attached to the story of Cyrano, and Roxanne is a good modernized version that captures what I love about the original. It makes me feel more than Amelie did. Roxanne wins, dropping Amelie to #521.

vs. Quartet (2012) - I'll let Amelie win this one. Quartet is good but not great, and Amelie's creative storytelling pushes it a notch above.

vs. Shall We Dance? (1996) - I very much want to rewatch this one. I remember liking it a lot, but do I like Amelie better? I think we'll give Amelie the benefit of the doubt here and wait for a someday rewatch of Shall We Dance? to change its location.

vs. Waking Ned Devine (1998) - This movie is delightful. Is it as delightful as Amelie? It definitely made me laugh more. And it probably made me care more about the characters. Yeah, I think Waking Ned Devine is going to trump Amelie here, which pushes Amelie down to #530.

vs. Leap of Faith (1992) - Leap of Faith is probably too low here. I was fascinated by this story, which was much more profound than I expected it to be. Steve Martin wins over Audrey Tautou for the second time, pushing Amelie to #534.

vs. Notting Hill (1999) - Richard Curtis' writing is always funny, and the two stars are charismatic, but this movie never did all that much for me, so I'm going to give it to Amelie, which also didn't wow me but it attempted a bit more.

vs. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) - Hmmmm. I liked Mad Max, but I'm not sure I would have felt the same about it if I hadn't seen it in the theater. This is a really tough call. I think Mad Max is going to win for now because I don't remember being antsy while watching it the way I occasionally was with Amelie.

This gives Amelie a final ranking of #535, which is the lowest any movie in my original top 100 has fallen thus far. Sorry, Amelie!

My next movie from the top 100 that I'll be rewatching is my original #44: Rent (2005). I'll be writing about it no earlier than October 19th, so if you want to watch or rewatch a long with me and leave your own comments when I post that blog, go for it!


  1. Amelie is one that I found charming and mostly likable, but I *know* I'd love it if I were a quirky teenage girl. I do find it easy to recommend though.

    I'm excited to see what you think of Rent. That movie really launched my love of musicals in middle school though I know the film is a flawed adaptation of the stage production (I could compare it to Schumacher's Phantom; another weak movie that I still love because it introduced me to great theater).

    1. I have very fond feelings about the movie version of Rent, and I am a big fan of everyone in it. We'll see if it still works for me after several years of not having seen it!

  2. I researched Amelie for the first time about 18 months ago and felt similarly let down compared to my first viewing. I didn't rerank it though, do it's still near the bottom of my top 250 (if I remember correctly). Good idea for a challenge - I'll begin following your progress.

  3. And by "researched" of course I mean "rewatched." Stupid autocorrect! And by "do" I meant "so!" Speaking of do, I think I just need a do over!