Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) Studio: Miramax Zöe Films (distributed by Lionsgate) Year: 2001 Rated: R (for sexual content) Length: 122 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Resolution: 1080p Languages: French 5.1 DTS-HD MA Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish MSRP: $19.99 Film Release Date: April 25, 2001 Disc Release Date: July 19, 2011 Disc Review Date: July 18, 2011 “Without you, today’s emotions would be the scurf of yesterday’s.” The Movie: 4.5/5 Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) was an unusual girl. Growing up in the Montmartre district of Paris where her father, a doctor, declared her unfit for school after wrongly diagnosing her with a heart condition; educated at home by her ill-fated mother, she had little contact with the outside world. As a result, she had to rely on her vivid imagination for companionship and extracurricular activity, a strong contrast to the prosaic world of those around her. When she becomes an adult, she goes to work as a waitress at the Two Windmills café. One day, she hears the shocking news of Princess Diana's death, and drops something on the floor. When she goes to pick it up, she finds a box of mementos under a floorboard and vows to find its owner. After several dead ends, Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin), a frail, reclusive neighbor known as “The Glass Man,” helps her find the man. After she finds the man to whom the box belonged (Maurice Bénichou), Amélie vows to devote her life to doing good deeds for those around her. While she helps those in her everyday life find love, closure, and self-respect, she is curiously unable to find her own happiness. In one of her travails, she becomes fixated on Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz), an eccentric young man who collects broken photobooth photos and reconstructs them in a book. When Nino drops the book in pursuit of a mysterious man, Amélie saves it and drops a series of bizarre clues to Nino for him to find the book — and meet her. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, co-director of Delicatessen, has returned to his native France after his commercially unsuccessful American debut, Alien: Resurrection. With Amélie, he has constructed a fearlessly imaginative and playful film within a richly colored kaleidoscope of a world. Jeunet, his co-writer Guillaume Laurant and their clever and wickedly funny script, his editor Hervé Schneid, his cinematographer, Bruno Delbonnel, and his special effects crew, have each done their part to construct the film’s surrealistic atmosphere; only in a world like this— a welcome antidote to the cinematic dictates of “realism”—could a story like this ever happen. But the style is only part of the substance—the unconventionally beautiful, waiflike Audrey Tautou not only masters the character’s eccentric worldview and joy in life’s little pleasures, but the pathos within her difficulty to find the same joy she strives to help others find. Without hitting a single false or insincere note, she embodies a sense of joie-de-vivre like no screen performance since Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame. While the film is fast-paced and breezy, it’s never rushed or obnoxiously loud, and takes time to see how the beneficiaries of Amélie’s good deeds—a slow-witted delivery boy (Jamel Debbouze), a woman whose husband ran off with another woman and died in a mountain plane crash 30 years ago (Yolande Moreau), and a lovestruck hypochondriac co-worker (Isabelle Nanty)—fare. While the film’s funding came from a variety of French and German sources, the film is unmistakeably French in its surroundings, from its on-location cinematography in and around Paris to its accordion driven musical score. But its call to embrace life and take every opportunity to live it to the fullest is truly international. Amélie was a smash hit with critics and audiences around the world, but there was a roadblock to that success: Gilles Jacob, the programmer for the Cannes Film Festival. He didn’t like the film, but he only saw a barely finished version without color correction or music. It bypassed the prestigious festival and went straight into release. The French press and public adored it, and Jacob ended up with egg on his face. Other countries were equally receptive; in the USA alone, it grossed $33 million, about three times its production costs, and was nominated for Five Academy Awards including Best Foreign Film. In its native land it won four César awards out of 13 nominations: Best Film, Best Director, Best Music, and Best Production Design. The Video: 4.5/5 The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Shot in Super 35 and using a 2K Digital Intermediate, the film comes alive in a 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer. The Juarez Machado-inspired green, red and gold color scheme is accurately rendered, blacks are deep and rich, and fleshtones are warm and saturated. The film’s mild grain structure is intact, with a few individual scenes slightly grainier than the body of the film. I couldn’t distinguish any DNR, edge enhancement, or compression artifacts. The Audio: 5/5 The film’s original French-language track receives a robust 5.1 DTS-HD MA presentation. The dialogue and Yann Tiersen’s musical score comes in clear, and the surround ambience is strong but never overpowering, except for a few moments of sound effects flourishes. The Extras: 5/5 All of the DVD extras from the old Miramax DVD appear to be here, plus the English audio commentary from the Alliance Blu-Ray released in Canada. They are 480i and 4x3 unless otherwise noted, and all supplements in French (noted by an *) feature English subtitles. —Audio commentary with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. He warns listeners right away not to listen if you don’t want to “destroy the poetry” of the film. His English is not great, and unfortunately the track does not come with subtitles for the benefit of those who may find his accent a little thick. —The Look Of Amélie (12:48): Jeunet and his cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel discusses the film’s distinctive visual style, inspired by the works of Brazilian painter Juarez Machado. Unfortunately, no examples of Mr. Machado’s work are provided for comparison. —Fantasies of Audrey Tautou (2:07)*: A gag reel centered on the film’s star, presented in 16x9. —Screen Tests*: • Audrey Tautou (1:58) • Urbain Cancelier (0:38) • Yolande Moreau (3:52) —Q&A With Director (24:37): At a 2002 American Cinematheque screening in Hollywood, shortly after the film’s American debut, Jeunet fields questions from the audience. —Q&A With Cast (5:55)*: Jeunet and his actors Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Jamel Debbouze field questions from the audience at a French screening. —Storyboard Comparison (0:48): A comparison between the storyboard of one scene and its ultimate execution, showing how little changed from its conception. —An Intimate Chat with Jean-Pierre Jeunet (20:48)*: Jeunet discusses the making of the film after its successful release in anticipation of its DVD release. —“Home Movies”: Inside the Making of Amélie (12:46)*: A montage of video footage of the cast and crew on the set. It was shot with a consumer camcorder, while the audio sounds as though it was captured in-camera. —Theatrical Trailer (1:05): A teaser for the film’s American release. —The Amélie Scrapbook: A series of still galleries presented in 1080p and divided into the following sections: Behind the Scenes Photos French Poster Concepts Storyboards The Garden Gnome’s Travels The only things missing from other releases are the several trailers and TV spots and the French audio commentary on the Alliance Blu-Ray. To a non-Francophone such as myself, the latter isn’t that big of a deal, but the trailers would have been welcome. Final Score: 5/5 Where critics ask why, Amélie asks “why not?” A visually thrilling embodiment of the joys of life, Lionsgate has given fans of the film plenty of reason to rejoice with its stateside Blu-Ray debut. With fine picture and sound, a wealth of extras, and a reasonable price, if you love French cinema, any nation’s cinema, or life itself, Amélie is a must-own for your Blu-Ray collection. Highly recommended.