A treasure trove of colors, wonderful camerawork, and great acting, Jean-Pierre Jenuet’s Amélie was the surprise box office hit of 2001. Strong early reviews, unprecedented interest from various distributors around the globe, and a much publicized scandal involving the Cannes Film Festival official selection process, resulted in Amélie becoming one of the greatest exports French cinema has produced.

AmelieAmélie (Audrey Tautou) is a shy young woman who has spent her life keeping to herself. As a child, she was discouraged from having friends by her neurotic mother and emotionally distant father. Currently, she works as a waitress in a café and spends her nights alone in her small apartment. She has no boyfriend, no confidantes, and no real sense of purpose in life. However, one event—the discovery of a box of old snapshots and toys in a hidden compartment in her apartment—changes her life forever.

Amélie decides to return the box to its original owner, thus returning the childhood memories held in the box to their rightful source. For Amélie, the box becomes a catalyst for interactions with her neighbors. Slowly, she emerges from her cloistered shell of imaginary friends, and ventures out into the world of temptation, compassion, and unrequited love. In tracking down the man who was that boy, and returning his box, Amélie finds her life’s work: She will make people happy. In the process, she encounters Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz), who may be her soulmate—if she can ever find the courage to talk to him face-to-face and admit her feelings for him.

Amélie is one of those uplifting films that really makes you feel good. Audrey Tautou simply sparkles in the lead role. She brings Amélie to life with a delightful mix of shyness, energy, and mischievousness. Her face has a delicate look to it. As a result, it doesn’t take long before she has our sympathy and support. It’s not hard to understand why this film struck a chord with audiences around the world—like the main character, it’s a motion picture that’s both intelligent and hard not to like.

Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino makes a nice match for Amélie; Nino too, is used to being the quiet wallflower. Watching the two play a game of cat and mouse (perhaps more appropriately, mouse and mouse), it is clear that these two are meant to be together. Much like Amélie, we see the gradual strengthening of Nino’s confidence and personality as time passes. Other supporting performers include Rufus (as Amelie’s father), Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon as a disgruntled customer at the café where Amelie works, and Serge Merlin as Amelie’s painter neighbor, who gives her advice on life and love.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the film is the manner in which Amélie chooses to help others. Rather than doing things in a straightforward fashion, she devises complex stratagems. Her father has a hidden desire to travel, so, in order to bring his interest to the surface, Amélie kidnaps his garden gnome and has it photographed in front of various geographical landmarks around the world. For a neighbor who cherishes old love letters from her dead husband, Amélie fakes one that was “recently found”. And so on… Jenuet keeps us guessing as to whom Amélie will help next, and how she’ll do it.

Amélie is one of those rare gems where everything about a film just works. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to do so. Amélie belongs in everyone’s Blu-ray collection.

Framed in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this 1080p transfer is a solid one. I was glad to see that colors are bright and vibrant throughout, and avoid any bleeding. Skintones look natural, and cintrast is even. The image seemed clear of any dirt or debris. I spotted one or two instances of haloing, but it shouldn’t interfere with the overall viewing experience.

The French 5.1 DTS Master Audio Soundtrack compliments the main feature very well. Dialogue is clear throughout. There are plenty of depth and surround effects that will definitely turn your head. I heard no cracks, hisses or dropouts throughout the film. English and Spanish subtitles are provided.

All of the special features have been available on previous DVD editions:

  • Commentary with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet: Clearly passionate about the project, Jeunet is quite informative discussing the actors, the story, and the technical details of getting the film made.
  • The Look of Amélie (SD): Jeunet and the film’s cinematographer discuss how they achieved the look of the film. There was an amazing amount of preparation involved.
  • Fantasies of Audrey Tatou (SD): Oddly titled, this is actually a cast goof reel.
  • Screen Tests (SD): Audrey Tautou, Urbain Cancelier and Yolande Moreau’s screen tests.
  • Q & A with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (SD): Done at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles in 2002, the piece covers the inspirations for the story to casting to other production details – it starts off with an interviewer asking questions, then the audience gets their chance.
  • Q & A with director Jeunet & cast (SD): This piece in French with English subtitles. Here, Jeunet and members of the cast field questions from a French audience.
  • Storyboard Comparison (SD): A storyboard-to-scene comparison for one scene.
  • An Intimate Chat with Jean-Pierre Jeunet (SD): Jeunet opens with a brief chat about DVDs and how much he enjoys the format, then starts in on how the movie came together. We learn first about title-issues and other basics, and then moves to casting, the great reception that the film has received. He even shows a couple of letters from one girl who didn’t know how to reach the director, but convinced the postman to find out.
  • Home Movies (SD): Piece that shows everything from Tautou getting her hair cut, to the crew at work on a scene. Filmed in basic fashion, this is a fun little effort that allows the viewer behind-the-scenes.
  • Trailers/TV Spots: The film’s US trailer and French trailer, as well as 12 US TV spots and 5 French TV spots.
  • The Amélie scrapbook: photo gallery