Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain

France

Synopsis

Amélie lives in Paris and in a world of her own. Traumatised by her mother's sudden death and her father's consequent coldness, she has become fascinated by tiny things: baking a cake, plunging her hand into a barrel of rice, imagining how many orgasms are occurring throughout the city at any one moment. She rents an apartment in Montmartre. She looks after her stewardess neighbour Philomene's cat when Philomene's away on a flight, and spies guiltily on her neighbour Dufayel, a man with brittle bones. She works in a café called Les Deux Moulins, where her boss Suzanne dreams of her past life in the circus, and co-worker Gina rebuffs the attentions of her jealous ex-boyfriend Joseph. Amélie's life is fairly happy, but it's narrow.

One day, Amélie discovers an old box of childhood treasures in her apartment. Seized with excitement, she makes it her mission to find the owner. Her researches bring her into contact with the concierge of her building, who longs to receive a letter from her errant (and, unfortunately, dead) husband, and with the cruel grocer Collignon, who treats his innocent employee Lucien appallingly. Finally, her path crosses with Dufayel, who puts her on the right track to find her quarry and, in the process, reveals himself to be a domestic philosopher and eccentric painter - he has been making a scrupulous copy of a Renoir once a year for twenty years.

Amélie returns the box anonymously to its middle-aged owner, Bretodeau, and watches from a distance as his life is transformed by its magical discovery. So moved is she by his joy that she starts looking for other lives to fix. She steers Joseph into passion with Georgette the cigarette-girl and so frees Gina from his unwelcome jealousy. In an attempt to liberate her father's emotions, she steals his beloved garden gnome and gets Philomene to send him Polaroids from the gnome's round-the-world trip. She gets into Collignon's apartment and makes subtle changes, leading the horrible man to doubt his sanity. She fakes love-letters to the embittered concierge from the woman's late husband. Then one day, as she is returning from a visit to her father in the suburbs, Amelie sees a young man collecting discarded passport-photos from a booth in the Gare du Nord. He races away, dropping his diary. Amélie picks it up and is immediately hooked: it reveals that one man is leaving his photographs in booths all over Paris. The owner of the diary is desperate to find out why, and Amélie is desperate to find the owner.

Amélie finds the young man's name and number, and starts researching. The more she discovers about him, the more certain she becomes that this Nino, a collector of bizarre ephemera such as unusual answering-machine messages, is the man for her. But old ways die hard. Despite the advice of her new friend Dufayel, she conducts a campaign by stealth.

She visits Nino anonymously at his place of work (a ghost train); leaves cryptic clues for him; leads him on a mysterious treasure-hunt around the park at Sacré Coeur; she even solves the puzzle that troubled Nino (the mystery man is a photo-booth technician) - but she can't approach him directly. Instead she leaves Nino a series of photos of herself, each bringing him closer to Les Deux Moulins.

At Les Deux Moulins Joseph is now jealous of Georgette, and local poet Hipolito is bemoaning his lack of a publisher. Meanwhile Dufayel teaches Lucien to paint, and wonders over the strange and beautiful images Amélie has sent him on videotape. Collignon, disturbed by Amélie's sabotages, heads for a nervous breakdown. And Nino finally reaches the café. But when he asks Amélie if she is the woman who has been leading him on, she loses her nerve and denies it. Dufayel exhorts Amélie to come out of hiding and reveal herself to Nino, but she's terrified. However, fate intervenes in the form of Gina, who takes Nino for a walk and tells him that he must approach Amélie stealthily too. And Dufayel has left Amélie a videotape telling her to plunge into life head-first. A trail of notes on her landing leads Amélie gradually, eventually, to Nino. They kiss, and the world falls into place around them ...

Bretodeau is re-united with his estranged grandchildren.
Hipolito finds that Amélie has 'published' him in spray-paint on a wall.
Dufayel starts developing a painting-style of his own.
Amélie’s father decides to follow in his gnome's footsteps and go on a world tour

... and Amélie tells Nino that she loves him

Directors Statement

At this stage in my life, in my career, I wanted to make a lighthearted film - a film that makes people dream, that gives them pleasure.

Director's Biography

1978 L'EVASION, short animation
1979 LE MANEGE. short animation
1980 LE BUNKER DE LA DERNIÈRE RAFALE, short
1984 PAS DE REPOS POUR BILLY BRAKKO, short
1990 FOUTAISES, short
1991 DELICATESSEN (co-directed with Marc Caro)
1995 THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (co-directed with Marc Caro)
1997 ALIEN RESURRECTION
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Written by: Guillaume Laurant, Claudie Ossard

Produced by: Claudie Ossard

Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel

Editing: Hervé Schneid

Production Design: Aline Bonetto

Costume Design: Madeline Fontaine

Make-Up & Hair: Nathalie Tissier

Original Score: Yann Tiersen

Main Cast: Audrey Tautou (Amélie Poulain), Mathieu Kassovitz (Nino Quicampoix)

Nominations and Awards

  • People's Choice Award 2001
  • European Film 2001
  • European Director 2001
  • European Cinematographer – Prix Carlo Di Palma 2001
  • European Actress 2001
  • EFA Feature Film Selection 2001