It takes an extraordinarily talented director to navigate the lines between dark comedy, parody, whimsy, and camp without getting bogged down by his own self-conscious artfulness. Jean-Pierre Jeunet has done this before, with his blackly funny and visually sumptuous films Delicatessen (1991) and The City of Lost Children (1995). In his 2001 film Amélie, Jeunet has applied his passion for surreal imagery and penchant for off-beat camerawork to a less bleak, far frothier confection with a more human center and a lot more heart. Amélie Poulain (the lovely Audrey Tatou) is a shy and unassuming young woman who works as a waitress and has little to do with the people who surround her. Then one day, by happenstance, she finds a 40-year-old tin box filled with a child's mementos and sets out to return the box to its owner. After seeing the happy reaction of the now-grown man when he rediscovers his treasures, Amélie sets out to do good deeds for all the people in her life. During the course of her adventures, Amélie comes across Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), in whom she senses a kindred spirit, mainly because of his peculiar hobby of collecting discarded pictures from photo booths and reassembling them in an album. Though she wants Nino, Amélie is so shy that all she can do is, basically, stalk him until the efforts of her friends, the people whose lives she's been changing, give her a shot at finding love herself. Amélie is more than Jeunet's attempt to make a lighter, sweeter film than his previous efforts it's also a romanticized love letter to Paris, which is presented as charming, friendly, and picture-postcard adorable, peopled with eccentric citizens and the ever-present sound of accordion music. The entire film has a bright, candy-colored look, thanks to the wonders of digital filmmaking Jeunet boosted and changed the colors throughout his film in post-production, creating a hyper-realistic saturated look. The result is a movie with a weird and wonderful fantasy quality that uses state-of-the-art film techniques to tell an old-fashioned story full of clever charm. Buena Vista Home Entertainment's DVD release of Amélie does justice to Jeunet's obsessive perfectionism. The transfer is stunning beautifully crisp and color-saturated in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) with extraordinarily rich Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. It's also an extensive package, two discs with a boatload of extras, including French and English commentary tracks by Jeunet; the featurette "The Look of Amélie" on the film's design; outtakes and screen tests; featurettes "Q&A with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet" and "Q&A with the Director and Cast"; storyboard-to-screen comparisons; the featurette "An Intimate Chat with Jean-Pierre Jeunet"; behind-the-scenes footage; stills, poster concepts and storyboards; French and U.S. trailers and TV spots; and cast and crew notes.
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