As usual, I'm about two months behind in writing about the movies we've watched on Netflix. I'm going to start with the one that we saw just last night, because it was so good.
"Amelie" was released in 2001, and heaven only knows why I've never seen it until now. It reminded me a great deal of two movies that I liked a lot - "Moulin Rouge!," and "Hugo." All three are examples of how the best movies can transport you with their magic into an entirely different world - a world where whimsy rules, and logic is put on the back burner. The things that you see on the screen aren't necessarily realistic, but you don't really care because from the first scenes, a tone is struck that tells you to set your cynicism aside, and enjoy the ride. And if you're lucky, you might learn a lesson or two that you can take back into the real world.
Amelie Poulain is a young woman who, sheltered from a good portion of the outside world because of her father's mistaken belief that she has a heart defect, has created a magical world of her own. It is a world where she seeks to right the small injustices that we all encounter every day, and to help those who are missing something from their lives - love, adventure, family - make those connections.
"Amelie" is a small miracle, in that it sustains that sense of movie magic from first frame to last. Along the way, we meet an impressive cast of characters - those who live in her apartment building, those who work with her at the corner bistro where she is a waitress, and mysterious figures who cross her path - such as the man who creates a scrapbook of photos he has scrounged from the waste bins of photo booths across the city. Mysteries abound - who is that man who has left behind so many photos across the city? Why does the man who never leaves her apartment building paint the same painting over and over again?
The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Audrey Tatou in the title role. And the movie is a visual treat, as director Jean-Pierre Jeunet paints a canvas that is as magical as the story which fills it.
When done poorly, movies like this are an embarrassment. But when done well, like "Amelie," they tend to remind us why we go to the movies in the first place.