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Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amélie) (Amélie from Montmartre) June 14, 2007

Posted by Sai in French, Movies, Reviews.
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This is a magical film with a narrative style that is more suited to films made for children. The film belongs completely to writer-director Jean-Pierre Jeunet who is ably aided by Guillaume Laurant (co-writer, dialogue), Bruno Delbonnel (cinematography), Herve Schneid (editing), Aline Bonetto (production design), and Yann Tiersen (music) in bringing his vision to the screen. Jeunet’s visual narrative style and supremely inventive imagination make this film a gem.

The film takes you through the life of Amélie (Audrey Tautou), a lonely young French girl. A chance incident changes her life forever. She discovers a box full of childhood memories belonging to someone who lived in her apartment many years ago. She sets out to trace this individual and return the box. The happiness that the individual gains from this simple deed triggers the do-gooder in Amélie and she embarks upon more such deeds including some mischievous ones. During one such encounter, Amelie chances upon a young man called Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) with a quaint hobby – collecting the torn pictures that people discard at photo booths and putting them back together. On one occasion he leaves his collection of photographs behind and Amélie finds them. Does she give the pictures back? How does she help the other people around her? Does she gain more than just happiness from these good deeds?

Though the film tends to focus on Amélie throughout, it is to his credit that Jeunet manages to juggle so many secondary characters successfully without confusing the audience. I also loved the way he provides back stories for all these characters while the audience has no clue whether any of this detail is relevant to the rest of the film. Though the film has the unavoidable love angle and the previously used aspect of one person enriching the lives of those around him/her, it is the treatment rather than the plot that makes it a superior endeavor. The cast also deserve special mention for the success of Jeunet’s vision because it is hard to get the tone right in a film like this. Audrey Tautou is a revelation. Just the right choice for the role of Amélie.

The film was nominated for five Oscars including Best Foreign Film in 2001 and many expected it to win that award but it lost out to No Man’s Land (Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan was also nominated in the same year). I haven’t seen that movie but I wonder if it was the light-hearted feel-good aspect of this film that made it seem less important to the voters (it also lost to the same film at the Golden Globes). Award or not, this film is firmly entrenched in the minds of the audience (it is currently ranked 33 in the top films of all time in IMDB based on votes from over a 100,000 people). Go to your DVD store now if you haven’t experienced Amelie yet!

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Le Dîner de cons (The Dinner Game) May 2, 2007

Posted by Sai in French, Movies, Reviews.
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This French comedy (whose title translates to The Idiots’ Dinner) is based on writer-director Francis Veber’s play (and was recently remade in Hindi as Bheja Fry).

Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) is an unscrupulous wealthy publisher who along with his friends participates in a once a week dinner where each of the participants brings along an “idiot” for fun. The friends have great fun with them while the so-called idiots are totally unaware about it. On one such occasion, Brochant gets to know of Francois Pignon (Jacques Villeret), a tax accountant who builds replicas of famous architectural wonders with matchsticks. Deciding that he would make a great guest for the dinner, he invites him over to his house. As luck would have it, he is down with a bad back and his wife leaves him on the same day. Unfortunately for him, Pignon tries to help him out and hilarity ensues.

At 81 minutes, the film is quite short and Veber doesn’t waste much time. Once the setup is established, he lets Villeret take over and the film gets increasingly funny. He is ably aided by Lhermitte in a role whose importance audiences generally tend to neglect. Villeret does a superb job and plays the role with an earnestness that makes Pignon believable. Apparently he played the role six hundred times on stage and it is no wonder that his comic timing is spot on.

There are a lot of side-splitting moments and the most uproarious of these are when Pignon is on the phone. On the downside, I might have missed a bit of the humor due to the language barrier. Nevertheless, there are enough laughs on the whole making it worth a watch.