It's better to help people than garden gnomes.

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * * )    DVD Rating: ( * * * · · )

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How does one describe a movie like Amelie without the cliche' "Amazing", "Magical", "Wonderful" blurbs you'd find pasted on the back of the box. I guess you just can't help it sometimes so forgive me when I say that Amelie is all of those things. It is a bizarre look at the life of a young introvert who sees life through a different set of eyes than the rest of us.

While everyone is reading about the death of Princess Diana, Amelie is rebuilding her life around a magical box filled with 1950s toys. I have often wondered whether the quirky folks we know are really just looking at life on a different level than the rest of us normal people - tisk tisk - and Amelie manages to capture that view of life as perfectly as I can imagine. It looks at great detail in all things, from a small unpainted spot on a garden gnome to the bits of chicken left after it is carved for dinner. It defines its characters in seconds with their most peculiar likes and dislikes rather than a large biography. There is a moment where Amelie leads a blind man across the street and down the sidewalk describing every tiny detail she sees with the speed of a horse race announcer. She describes them in the most illogical of descriptions yet captures every bit of it perfectly. She leaves the blind man at his subway stop and he stares into the sky and beams a great smile. For the last thirty seconds he could see better than anyone else on the street. Jean-Pierre Jeunet gives us this same magical view throughout the movie.

"Good descriptions usually consist of a few well chosen details that speak for everything else," Stephen King writes in On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft. Jean-Pierre follows this rule throughout the entirety of Amelie. Rather than large descriptions of the locations, the people, or the scenes, we are given only the most well chosen details and the rest flows perfectly into place.

Amelie is a movie that makes me wish I spoke French. The dialog and story are so transparent that I had no memory of the subtitles themselves except to know that I missed a lot of detail reading the dialog. The picture is a fabulous 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack plays perfectly, bringing life to the marching tea glasses that follow the beat of unbridled love in a coffee shop bathroom. The DVD is a two disc set with many extras and special features but no commentary track. There is also no DTS track though I can't say I missed it.

Amelie is another of the year's greatest movies. If you're forced into the horrors of having to watch a chick-flick, show your sensitive side and grab this one instead of the heartstring tugging "Shallow Hal". While you won't get the action of "Blade 2" you will get a few bonus points in the game of relationships and you might actually enjoy the movie as much as I did. It is a great film.