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banner Friday, 5 October, 2001, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Spellbinding Amelie
Audrey Tautou plays the French dreamer Amelie
Amelie is a charming film tipped for the Oscars
By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

Amelie has become a phenomenon in her native France - and her dreamy, spellbinding story is now set to become one of the few films that everybody talks about elsewhere in the world.

It will be difficult to find a more beguiling, sublime and touching film all year.

It comes to us in the same way that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did last year - from a semi-established director who has gone back to his native language and pulled off the surprise of the year.

Amelie is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who was behind Delicatessen and Alien: Resurrection, and who performs his magical sleight of hand on a corner of Paris.

This film is too delicate to have been made in Hollywood and too light-hearted to have been made in the UK.

Mathieu Kassovitz as Amelie's love interest Nino Quicampoix
Amelie falls for a man who owns a sex shop
It carries none of the stereotypical arthouse stigma that usually dogs French films - just a simple, uplifting and fantastical story.

Amelie herself, played by Audrey Tautou, is a dreamer who takes us on a touching, subtle and funny journey into her own little world.

She is introduced as a small, angel-faced girl with an over-active imagination, who gets immersed in her fantasy world to escape a dysfunctional family and the loneliness of having no friends.

Her father does not let her go to school because he thinks she has a serious heart problem. But the reason her heart beats so fast is because the only physical contact they have is when he puts a stethoscope to her chest.

Her mother dies when she gets hit by someone jumping from the top of Notre Dame, and Amelie resolves to discover a life for herself as soon as she can.

Endearing

Fifteen years later, Amelie is a slightly larger, angel-faced girl with an over-active imagination who moves to Paris.

Her corner of the city is inhabited by other endearingly odd characters - from the brittle-boned hermitic painter to the hypochondriac tobacconist in the café where she is a waitress, and the harangued and unbalanced greengrocer's assistant.

All are over-the-top - in a comic way - but in Amelie's world, they hardly seem all that strange at all.

Her life in Paris begins with a realisation that she has a gift for doing good deeds for people - a bit like playing helpful practical jokes on unsuspecting beneficiaries.

Bizarre

But this soon leads to the main part of the story, when her life gets intertwined with that of a similarly deluded man who works in a sex shop but collects ripped-up passport photos in his spare time.

It is love at first sight for Amelie, and she uses her fantastical plans in order to get closer to him.

That synopsis sounds very bizarre if you have not been let into Amelie's little world - but the plot does make a strange kind of sense.

And Amelie is already being talked about as the token trendy foreign film for next year's Oscars - but Tautou and Jeunet deserve more than tokenism.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Amelie
Watch a clip from the film
Amelie
Watch the trailer
See also:

05 Oct 01 | Reviews
Amelie: Your views
09 Oct 01 | Reviews
Amelie: Press reviews
22 Jan 02 | Film
Amelie charms US box office
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