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Falling in Love With Am‚lie

Falling in Love With Am‚lie
Le Fabuleux destin d’Am‚lie Poulain (Am‚lie)
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Studio: Miramax
Screenplay: Guillame Laurent, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring: Audrey Tautou (Am‚lie Poulain)
Rating: R

The tagline that appears most in articles and trailers about Am‚lie is “you’ll fall in love with her.” You’ll get no argument from my end. In my personal opinion, Am‚lie (the short translation for the succinct American viewer) is the most adorable film of the year. In my critical opinion, its narrative and visual construction ranks among this year’s best.
From a cursory glance, Am‚lie is about the antics of a clumsy young girl, now young adult who decides the world is in need of “love, sweet love.” Consequently, she proceeds to commit a tirade of good deeds to make it so. A more exhaustive viewing of the film reveals one of the secrets to its success-a firm grasp of popular humor and the traditional role of the trickster within the genre of comedy. Originating from Omaha Tribal Myth and African American folklore, the traditional trickster protagonist often serves as a mythological tool to preserve facets of a particular society that have been deemed “funny,” and thus passed down throughout history in written and oral form. References to trickster-chicanery are pervasive in various sub-genres of comedy, namely irony, satire, carnival and comic inversion. While these intimate details may come across as an over-share to anyone simply looking for a good film, it is important to be aware of Am‚lie’s comical foundation (as I’m sure its writer/director would prefer). In fact, the texture of the narrative directly recalls Luis Bunuel’s Land Without Bread and Tomas Alea’s The Death of a Bureaucrat.
Am‚lie evokes this tradition on two levels. First, the rich history of sarcastic French humor is seamlessly woven into the narrative. Never does the film appear overbearing. Indeed, the interplay of narrative/narration provides a refreshing comical perspective. Second, the historical allusion to popular trickster humor resonates throughout the Am‚lie’s text and visual make. Audrey Tautou (Am‚lie) mirrors Charlie Chaplin (perhaps the most famous contemporary trickster) through the numerous pranks she orchestrates in a detailed and awkward manner. Moreover, the perception of the past and present trickster figure as being “brave” is also present. Am‚lie, in good fashion, does the same in her unconventional quests to correct all that is not right with the world, excluding of course, her own.
The film finds closure when she turns her attention inward and musters the courage to address her own life. Beautifully shot, well written, and almost perfectly balanced in color and contrast, Am‚lie is a celebration of past and present, romance and comedy, French and universal.

February 11, 2002
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